The Road to Sendai: parts 1 & 2 - FKOF JPN #6

The Road to Sendai: parts 1 & 2


Back when our FKOF JPN contributor was first introduced , we alluded to his occupation. Today’s post (the first in a series to come) explains Brandon’s job as a US Marine Photojournalist and what he’s currently up to.

Unless you’ve been under a rock since the 11th March, you’ll be aware that at 5:46am a 8.9magnitude earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Japan. The earthquake unleashed a 30ft tsunami which laid waste to pretty much everything in its path (as the photos below show). Brandon is part of the international relief effort and is documenting the story as it happens (we do have a two week delay on his posts but should be up to speed by the middle of next week) – and has been kind enough to fire some pictures (his pictures follow in the later posts) along with what he’s written…

[Iwanuma in northern Japan. (Kyodo News/Associated Press)]

Weathering the Storm 12/03/11
Tomorrow, at the crack of dawn, I will be on a bird headed to Sendai in order to provide media support and disaster relief aid. I’m no stranger to this sort of thing as I’ve been part of a few humanitarian missions since I joined the Marine Corps. Unlike other missions and operations, this is the first one that hit close to home. Although Okinawa felt next to nothing and was just on a tsunami warning for the past day, many of my friends had family members or friends of their own who were directly affected.

Now, this is my chance to do actually do something. I’ve never been a fan of donating money to anything and I don’t think that will change unless I can afford to be a financial philanthropist. I’ve always wanted to be there, at ground zero, where I can physically do something. I don’t care if it’s giving a kid a bottle of water, or helping to rebuild a building. Just like my support of the typhoon in the Philippines in October, I’ll be doing the same and taking photos every step of the way.

Wish me luck.

[Before and after satellite shot of Yuriage in Natori. (Google/ Digital Eye/ GeoEye)]

The Road to Sendai 01 14/03/11
I haven’t arrived in Sendai yet. I’m at an airfield a few hours south of Tokyo awaiting further equipment, assets and a functioning CH-46 for transportation. Too often, in the wake of natural disaster, people forget what’s going on when the mass media finds another hot topic to discuss. No one wants to beat a dead horse, right? Wrong. Although the globe can easily fall into international turmoil with what’s going on in the U.S. (failing economy, public unrest), Egypt (fuck yeah, nationalism), Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea (war) and Charlie Sheen’s mind (who knows), we can’t forget that people still need to be helped and can be helped.

“In response to Japanese government requests for assistance, U.S. forces in Japan are ready to conduct humanitarian relief efforts throughout Japan,” Japan proposed U.S. public affairs guidance.

What this really means is that Japan is going to spearhead their own relief effort. The U.S. and anyone else willing to get involved will take a backseat. This isn’t to say that Japan doesn’t want outside help, but it’s a matter of pride and obligation to its people. I agree with this theory of doing business whole-heartedly. After all, despite the numerous humanitarian efforts that the U.S. has been involved in over the past century, the U.S. doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for going in and fixing things. Much of this image problem is a matter of perspective, but major media outlets have been biased.

As the public affairs representative on a Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team, my primary goal is to tell the story of what the team is doing in Sendai, show the rest of the world what is happening in Sendai and to politely remind people why U.S. involvement, in this current socio-political international climate is necessary. For example, strategically placed airfields and ports in the countries of U.S. allies. That’s my job. The politics that go deeper than that is not my concern whether anyone following my articles or viewing my pictures agrees with this is of no consequence to me or anyone else. There’s a bigger picture.

“The Japan Self Defense Forces are among the most prepared and capable in the world in dealing with a disaster response situation. [The U.S.] is prepared to augment their efforts with all available assets and equipment upon request,” per the PPAG.

The problem is, we don’t have a whole lot to contribute with so many assets and so much equipment elsewhere in the world. There are bilateral training exercises in Thailand, the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea happening as we speak. The major command in charge of this sector of the world, U.S. Pacific Command, Marine Forces Pacific, III Marine Expeditionary Force doesn’t have a whole lot of shit. Hence, being stuck at this airfield. Factor that in with publicly known wars like Afghanistan and lesser known conflicts like [CENSORED], and I am left wondering when I can finally get my chance to help, or if it will happen at all.

Here’s where the III Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD), Marine Logistics Humanitarian Assistance Survey Teams come into play. The primary goal of these teams is to go to the affected areas, assess the damage, and report back to higher headquarters what is exactly needed to assist the government of Japan in their relief efforts. Again, the goal is not to ‘fix’ anything for anyone per the request of the affected country. It is simply to give them what they need so they can fix it themselves. All we need is a ride, right?

[Natori City in northeastern Japan. (Reuters)]

If you’re able to do your bit and donate for Japan find a place to donate here. More content from Brandon as he journeys to and from Sendai over the next few days as we get them from him.

If you haven’t seen some of the photos taken so far of the disaster caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami find ‘Before and After’ photos on ABC News here or a selection of AP/ Reuters photos on here. Follow Brandon on Tumblr (where you can read all the Road to Sendai posts) and Twitter.

Pray for Japan.

Peace, love and respect.