Here's a first hand account from a helo guy over in Japan that the group
might interest the group. The author is a LTJG pilot flying the SH-60B
LAMPS. He is attached to the HSL-51 Warlords in Atsugi, Japan and was
actually the Officer on Duty for the Squadron when the 9.0 quake hit. He is
currently assigned to the USS Cowpens and is off the coast of Iwate
Prefecture just north of the devastation in Sendai. He speaks very highly of the Military coordination of the effort and the safety precautions that have been implemented.
Sorry it's been a couple days since I've written. They haven't
shut off email or anything, we've just been pretty busy. We started
helping with the relief efforts on our ship on Saturday after we got up
to the area, and I flew my first flight on Sunday. Our main tasking has
been to pick up supplies off of the aircraft carrier in the area and
take it to areas where people have gathered for shelter. As a
precaution because of the nuclear plant situation, the ships have been
standing off a good distance from the affected areas, so we are having
to fly longer than would be ideal to make pickups and drop offs.
Fortunately, we have quite a few U.S. Helicopters from multiple
squadrons and ships in addition to the dozens of Japanese helicopters in
The weather has been cooperating the last couple days, but it
seems like every day the list of sites that need assistance grows. They
have a pretty good system working though. The E-2 Hawkeye aircraft are
providing airspace control, the C-2 transport aircraft are flying
supplies to the carrier, and the helicopters are flying supplies from
the carrier to the sites. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a
tiny bit entertained by the fact that the jets aren't doing much right
now. I'm sure not being the center of attention is killing them.
So far I've flown 2 days of humanitarian ops, about 6-7 hours
each day. This usually translates to about 3-4 runs per flight,
depending on how far away they send us. We have landed on everything
from soccer fields to boat docks to foundations of houses swept away by
the tsunami. While it is exciting flying, the scope of the damage is
incredible. It reminds me much of when I went back to New Orleans after
Katrina, except for the damage from the ninth ward is repeated up and
down hundreds of miles of coastline. The people here are going to be
rebuilding for quite some time.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, this is by far the
highlight of my brief career so far. Being able to help in situations
like this is the main reason I chose to fly helicopters. It is also
nice to be able to get away from the training flights for a little while
and do some 'real world' type stuff. We are only able to bring maybe
1000 lbs or so of supplies in on each run, which is no where near
meeting the needs of many of the areas we are going to. However, the
people we have helped have been extremely grateful, and little by little
we are trying to help them out.
The nuclear plant concern so far has been a non issue for us.
The Navy sent out representatives from their nuclear offices around the
U.S. to ensure that we are not being exposed to amounts of radiation
outside the yearly prescribed limits. While being swept with a geiger
counter for 10 minutes is a new step in post-flight duties from what I
am used to, it is well worth the precautions. So far I have registered
nothing above normal background radiation, roughly the amount you would
get from eating a banana. While I suppose this is good for me, it is
throwing a serious wrench into my "Grow my own Godzilla" scheme I was
hoping to pull off while I was out here. Oh Well. The bottom line is,
they are taking plenty of precautions to make sure we are safe while we
do this, and so far they have no reason to believe that we are in any
I hope that this has given you an idea of how we are doing out
here. We are doing a lot of good things but the scope of this will
require our help for quite some time. I hope that all is well with you.
Thank you for your concerns and kind emails. Stay tuned for an update
in a couple days!