The Road to Sendai: Parts 2-4 - FKOF JPN #7

The Road to Sendai: Parts 2-4


We’re following FKOF JPN contributor fameONE‘s attempt to get to Myagi Prefecture to aid with the relief effort. We left him waiting for a plane to the disaster zone, today we get the next three updates as he continues on the road to Sendai.

[Natori, Miyagi Prefecture (Kyodo News/Associated Press)]

The Road to Sendai 02 15/03/11
Hurry up and wait. It’s an all too common theme in the military especially when it comes to movement. There was a race to get to the flightline at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which followed a three hour wait. Once on the bird, we had no clue where we were headed until arriving to MCAS Iwakuni which led to a two day wait. Now at Naval Air Station Atsugi, we wait to find a place to crash for the evening. An open warehouse or a gym, perhaps?

Atsugi will be the hub for all relief efforts in Miyagi. Due to the conditions on the ground, helicopters are our primary means of transportation to and from the disaster site. As the team awaits someone to give us a thumbs-up, we’re planning out some of our activities. Much of which includes route reconnaissance, damage assessment and media escorts (for me). I have colleagues scattered about in Miyagi but they will be fulfilling different missions and staying with different units.

It seems as though the HAS Teams have been selected, or hand picked, due to all of us being subject matter experts in our respective fields of expertise. There are engineers, medical personnel, logistics officers and communication experts along with myself and my subordinate standing as the lone public affairs representatives. Theoretically, things should go smoothly but due to things we cannot cantrol, this has been, in the words of Gunnery Sgt. Highway in the movie Heartbreak Ridge, “a clusterfuck.”

More updates to come.

[Miyako, Iwate Prefecture (#PACOM)]

The Road to Sendai 03 16/03/11
Finally, I’ve received some clarity and, although it doesn’t change the situation, I feel better. I am still in Atsugi, confined to the base and stealing wifi from one of the facilities. We have been on constant standby awaiting a flight. I’ve just been told that the weather is too bad to fly in so the unit that was to deliver supplies in order to facilitate our mission, has yet to do so. Because of this, we can’t fly and push forward with the operation. Meanwhile, stuck in Atsugi, I’ve felt two earthquakes in two days.

Fun, fun.

[Sendai (Kyodo News/ AP)]

The Road to Sendai 04: Hilarious Frustrations 18/03/11
I want to help. That’s all I want to do; help. My small role in this can translate into something bigger. That’s why I enjoy humanitarian aid so much as a journalist. I’m not just making a difference, but I’m documenting it every step of the way. Being stuck here in Atsugi prevents me from being able to do so. The world doesn’t get fixed with hopes, dreams and prayers. On the flipside, I have a job to do and a chain of command to report to. However, I don’t have much of a job to do while I’m here at Atsugi. I really thought about explaining this, but I think I’m just going to share the emails between me and another individual.

Cpl [Sexiness],

I do not care what the pictures you currently have look like. I want them from you and from LCpl [SoAndSo]. I want them all and I want them yesterday. I expect to be in continuous daily receipt of whatever boring, repetitive pictures you take. If you have to go out and write a story about how the Marines are dealing with the blackout, fine. If you have to go out and write a story about how the food you are eating is getting delivered and take a bunch of pictures of Marines getting MRE’s out of boxes and eating by flashlight FINE! I BETTER GET THE PICTURES!! If I do not get some sort of images from you two, you can both expect your pro’s and con’s to reflect. If GySgt [Johnson] comes to me again and tells me that he has gone another day getting images from only [Mike], I will personally write your pg 11’s myself. Denny’s stuff is just as boring as what you are doing, trust me, but he is sending them and I expect the same from both of you. Do not make me repeat this order.

Sgt. [Cnutbag]

Of course, I’ve changed the names to protect the identities of those involved. I wonder who Cpl Sexiness is, though? I’m sure he must be a handsome fellow as his name would imply his physical attractiveness. And as for this sergeant, well now, she has a few things to learn. She’s new to the command, doesn’t know any of the Marines, and, well, isn’t in charge of me. I don’t report to her. In fact, we have the same billet in different offices, so for her to send me a rather juvenile email on her own accord reflects her fantastic initiative as a noncommissioned officer, as well as her awful judgment as a ‘C. U. Next Tuesday.’

Abe Lincoln hit the nail right on the head by saying, “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Everything is a power struggle in the Marine Corps. There is a time to attack, and a time to be submissive. Everything that I say must be said with a level of confidence and humility that should never trump each other. If I reply like a punk, then she will devour me. If I get too defensive, then I lose my credibility and I’ll be treated like a child. It doesn’t matter that she’s wrong, or that her email had all caps and exclamation points (we’re FKOFing journalists), she outranks me and has direct access to an audience with higher headquarters. The goal is to play everyone and win the chess match. My response below:

Sgt [Cnutbag],

First, it is important for you to understand the current conditions. We are staying in an empty tower of family housing. Marines are evenly dispersed throughout the building. Currently, there is no CoC set up, there are no Marines eating MREs by flashlight or doing any work whatsoever within the team. It’s the equivalent of being in Plaza Housing with rolling power outages. Up until recently we’ve been ordered by our chain of command here not to leave unless we’re getting chow. Mind you, we have not had computers until yesterday when LCpl [SoAndSo] and I went out of pocket just so we would have the necessary equipment to conduct business. I immediately sent a story and advised [SoAndSo] to follow suit. This much has been taken care of.

I cannot move a mountain and force the III MEF (FWD) HAS Team commander to order another unit to fly through a no fly zone to get us there any faster. I spoke to GySgt [Johnson] personally and gave him all the information I have on the situation at hand. I am not with any of the other PAO Marines because they are with completely different units doing a completely different mission. Our mission is on the ground at the disaster site in which we have yet to arrive.

I understand your concerns and frustrations, but please understand mine. There is no dereliction of duty on our part or blatant insubordination; just nothing going on at all. It is frustrating that I am unable to do my job because of the current situation and duly frustrating that I’m receiving such flak because of an obvious lack of understanding. As an NCO, I will ask that if you feel as though it is necessary to take administrative action due to lack of instant gratification, then please take that up with me and do not punish a junior Marine simply for being the low man on the totem pole.

Again, understanding of what we’re going through, or not (which would seem a more practical way of looking at it) can alleviate the unnecessary. As far as we know, we’re not there yet, we’re waiting for preemptive supplies to make it to Sendai (which will happen after the weather has passed), and the team still has a mission to conduct once this finally has happened. Due to the issues of logistics that we’ve been victim of thus far, our exercise will be extended until the mission is completed, providing my Marine and I an adequate opportunity to do our jobs as correspondents.

With that said, I’ll send you every photo I’ve taken thus far and I will continue to take more. I ask that you respect me as an NCO and trust that I will do what I possibly can to satisfy the needs and desires of III MEF CPAO. When the power returns, you’ll get what I have.

Thank you for your time.

Cpl [Sexiness]
BlackBerry from DOCOMO

I changed the names to avoid a libel suit, obviously. My feelings are a bit hurt because I’ve yet to receive a reply. Tsk, tsk, tsk; I expected a more formidable opponent. Oh, keep in mind, I sent a copy of this email to her superiors as well. Plays no games, son!

Entertaining, huh?

[Myako, Iwate Prefecture (#PACOM)]

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.

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Peace, love and respect.