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Team Buckley supports Pacific Passage

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo- Military dependent evacuees step off a bus after landing at Denver International Airport March 25, 2011. Operation Pacific Passage has allowed families to come home to the United States after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marcy Glass)

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo- Military dependent evacuees step off a bus after landing at Denver International Airport March 25, 2011. Operation Pacific Passage has allowed families to come home to the United States after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marcy Glass)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- Support from various branches of military help set up a processing line for Operation Pacific Passage March 23, 2011. Service members await inbound planes from Japan with family members of service members abroad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Manisha Vasquez)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- Support from various branches of military help set up a processing line for Operation Pacific Passage March 23, 2011. Service members await inbound planes from Japan with family members of service members abroad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Manisha Vasquez)

Denver International Joint Reception Coordination Center -- Military dependants from Japan land at Denver International Airport Reception Coordination Center March 24, 2011. Service members from various branches of service all pulled together to make the process run smoothly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Paul Labbe.)

Denver International Joint Reception Coordination Center -- Military dependants from Japan land at Denver International Airport Reception Coordination Center March 24, 2011. Service members from various branches of service all pulled together to make the process run smoothly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Paul Labbe.)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo- -- Over 500 dependents of military personnel in Japan arrived at Denver International Airport last week under a voluntary return to the U.S. under Operation Pacific Passage.

The dependants were leaving Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the country on March 11.

At the Joint Repatriation Coordination Center at DIA, the effort was led by Army Col. Marc Hutson, the Defense Coordination Officer for FEMA Region 8, Denver Federal Center. Over 200 support personnel, including those from Team Buckley, gathered from military bases along the Front Range and other states, to support the operation. Many other support agencies--Denver International Airport, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and the USO among others lent a hand as well.

"It's a monstrous partnership," said Colonel Hutson. "Every organization here has just bent over backwards to make this happen. It has truly been a collaborative partnership just to take care of these families, and we think of them as our own."

The JRCC-DIA received three flights of dependants. On March 24, one flight with 144 personnel were processed and then on Friday two more flights, with 78 and 305 dependants each arrived and were processed. Some 47 animals were also handled.

For the 460th Space Wing, over 100 military and civilians were on 12 hour shifts to assist in processing the dependants at the airport for further flights to their final destination, or to assist in providing lodging until flights could be obtained. Other members of Team Buckley volunteered to drag luggage or to assist in playing with kids and taking care of babies while their parents processed through the JRCC.

"The 460th Logistics Readiness Squadron does this kind of process, on a much smaller scale, every day from moving airmen to the Area of Responsibility or moving a family," said Lt. Col. Duff Wier, 460th LRS commander. "The whole squadron was engaged in the effort tracking the flights, performing accountability, moving resources to DIA, and quickly ticketing the families. Our airmen, both military and civilian, really stepped up to the plate to meet this challenge and support our military families."

The Navy Operational Support Center, at Buckley AFB provided 87 personnel from active duty, and 38 Navy Reservists in support of Operation Pacific Passage at DIA.

"It was a collaborative effort between all Services, with personnel from Buckley providing the majority of manpower to the operation at DIA," said Navy Capt. Leith Wimmer, commanding officer of the NOSC.
"The JRCC treated all families arriving at DIA exactly the way that we would want our families treated in the same situation.

"It was very reassuring to see a complex joint operation established and fully operational within 24 hours of tasking, involving Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and many external agencies and organizations. Without our community partners, the successful execution of Operation Pacific Passage would have not been possible."

"I am so very proud of our team's efforts to support the voluntary evacuation of military dependents from Japan," said Col. Clint Crosier, 460th Space Wing commander. "We pulled the entire operation together in about 24 hours, and as I walked through the hangar we were using to process our dependents, every comment I heard was appreciative of the care we were providing.

"I know our team here at Buckley is always ready to lean forward and take on any challenge, but when the challenge was to take care of our own military families in a time of need...well then it became a personal. And if there is one thing that will always drive our people to step forward and accomplish miracles, its taking care of our families in need," said Colonel Crosier.

Operations at the JRCC at DIA were shut down on March 28.
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