The Road to Sendai: Parts 5 & 6 - FKOF JPN #8

The Road to Sendai: Parts 5 & 6


We’re following FKOF JPN contributor fameONE‘s attempt to get to Sendai, Myagi Prefecture to aid with the relief effort. Last time we heard from Brandon, he was having difficulties with a superior officer – and still hadn’t got on a plane to Sendai. Tonight we get the next two updates as he continues on the road to Sendai.

[1st MAW aircraft carry cargo through elements (B. Saunders)]

The Road to Sendai 05: You Cannot Fathom the Immensity of the Fuck I Do Not Give 20/03/11

Currently, I’m in an old, abandoned gym on a Japanese Army base in Yamagata. The Marines and sailors are sleeping on the floor utilising their packs as pillows. The conditions are of no concern to anyone here, including myself. Combine these conditions with unrest and we now have a very disgruntled group of U.S. service members.

Without disclosing any official information, or any information that could possibly land me in court, I will be vague. My readers who have served can understand and respect this more than anyone. So higher headquarters, be thankful I’m not putting you on blast (that much).

This entire operation is sloppy and ill-planned. There is no efficiency, no order and no clue as to what is going on. Although the team’s mission is clear and defined on paper, it’s merely a hopeful theory unless the proper planning is put into it. Instead of being in Sendai, giving goods to those in need, we are in a position where we have become the needy.

Transportation anywhere has become iffy, at best. Traveling on C-130 cargo flights are common practice in the Marine Corps, but today was the first time I was laying on the ground, wedged in with 40 other grown men. It was to the point where heads were on each other’s laps. And as you take a moment to laugh and point out another homoerotic trait of military members, take another moment to think about how painful it is to be underneath gear, in a freezing plane, flying through the mountains.

Once in Yamagata, it was apparent that our arrival wasn’t scheduled. The Japanese forces here have their own issues to worry about, to include housing and feeding their own troops who are a week into the relief effort, let alone do the same for a foreign force that just showed the hell up. Under the pretense that we were assisting them, they obliged and have accommodated us as best they could. Alas, we freeze on rotting hardwood.

The radiation isn’t as bad as it seems but as a preemptive countermeasure, bases located within 100 miles of Fukushima are being evacuated. The families residing on these bases are being temporarily relocated by way of free flights to the states. The service members get to relax in Iwakuni, Okinawa, Guam or even Hawaii. However, if the nuclear generators do decide to go, one expert I interviewed said that it would be, “Nagasaki all over again.”

Oh, that’s comforting.

No need to worry. Though I am significantly closer at the moment, I am upwind, at a much higher elevation and separated by a gorgeous, snow-capped mountain range. This isn’t the kind of crisis that will go away with less media exposure because shit might just get real. Maybe not Fallout real, but perhaps Chernobyl real. I’ve been a skeptic the entire time.

Sgt [Cnutbag] hasn’t tried any of her shenanigans since my stoic, professional and condescending response to her nastygram that both challenged her authority (of which she lacks) and insulted her intelligence (or lack thereof). I’m not surprised. I wanted her to because I needed to channel my frustrations and growing resentment for higher headquarters by burning a hole in her soul that she would never be able to recover from. Yes, I’m that vengeful. It would have become a new past time to systematically destroy her self esteem just by being condescendingly polite and disingenuous. She still has a chance to receive such treatment as I believe that she’ll emerge from her proverbial trailer once more wearing a tank top, daisy dukes and a trucker hat. Then and only then, I will entertain us all.

No one seems to know anything. And I’m beginning to lose this zen-like patience I develop when being around mass quantities of superior (only in rank) officers who have the cognitive skills of a six year old on Nyquil. I also am in need of a shower, a glass of Hennessy and mind-blowing…adult time.

The Road to Sendai 06: Ghost 23/03/11

After another chilly night in the gymnasium of the Japanese army base, we finally got the call to push to Sendai. I couldn’t have been more excited that, after all the waiting, I was finally getting the opportunity to do my job. I had the feeling that much of the humanitarian work had already been taken care of by the Japanese forces, but it didn’t matter; I was ready to go. Only, I wouldn’t exactly get my chance to do all that I wanted to do in Sendai because a call had been made for me to return to Atsugi. I don’t know what the reasoning was for the decision, but it obviously had been made. Later on, I would find out that it had something to do with reducing the number of forces per unit.

Because I suddenly became the bastard child, I had to take any ride I could get. I still managed to fly to Sendai and was forced off the bird in order to grab my pack. While running toward the gear on the opposite end of the flightline, I took the photos I could before being ordered to return back to the plane and go to Atsugi. I’m still immensely disappointed that I didn’t get my chance in Sendai, but I’ll do what I can for now.

Upon arrival to Atsugi, it dawned on me that I had no defined mission and very few contacts on the base. I still had a key to the room I was staying in before, so that was one less problem to worry about. The Lieutenant I needed to link up with was in the air and didn’t answer her phone. Back at square one; no charger, no command, no mission. I was too exhausted to fight the system so I went back to the room and tried my best to get some sleep after a glass or two of Vodka.

It sounded like a government agency was hunting me down. There was definitely a group of individuals outside of the door trying to kick it down. The safety chain was on and I was in my boxers, looking for something to swing when they finally made it in. I broke a leg off the nightstand and stood ready to hit the first person to walk through the foyer. As it turned out, three more guys got issued keys to the room and since they couldn’t get in, they assumed I were dead. Big misunderstanding. After loud obscenities, we all calmed down and laughed it off over another glass of vodka.

I don’t like vodka.

After getting worked up about the intruders, I was excitable and on edge. I knew I needed to sleep but I simply couldn’t. My heart kept beating. I felt anxious. I didn’t know the Marines sleeping in the room and didn’t trust them. Nothing against those guys, but I’d never met them before and I am unable to trust those whom I don’t know. They turned out to be good guys overall, and one of them offered his external hard drive since he knew I didn’t have any movies on my computer. I watched Splice and had a nightmare.

I woke up and downed another glass of vodka.

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed, got ready for the day and waited. I waited for my Lieutenant to stop by because she said she would. She knew I didn’t have a working phone and since I didn’t know where she was current staying, I thought it would be best to stay in the room. A couple hours pass and I didn’t hear from her. I left, intent on finding a phone charger because my Blackberry connects me to virtually everyone in this business. I checked everywhere on base; no luck.

I finally buckled from my frustration and asked a random person if I could use their computer to check my mail. Great, an email from my Lieutenant asking me to take photos of a Distinguished Visitor escort. There was no way in hell I was going to make that. I don’t have a vehicle and I didn’t know where the operations center was to begin with. I managed to hitch-hike, yes, hitch-hike a ride to the flightline but my trusting stranger didn’t know how to get there and neither did I.

Run down and disappointed, I abandoned my trusting stranger and walked toward the main area of the base. On a positive note, I now have a charger thanks to the driver who picks up strange men in uniform walking on the side of the road. Turns out, the old bat also has a Blackberry.

[1st MAW aircraft carry cargo through elements II (Brandon Saunders)]

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.

Follow Brandon on Tumblr (where you can read all the Road to Sendai posts), Twitter, Facebook and flickr.

Pray for Japan.

Peace, love and respect.