by Osakabe Yasuo
374th Airlift Wing public affairs
4/17/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- When
transiting aircraft land and taxi on the airfield at Yokota Air Base,
Japan, "Follow-Me" vehicles immediately lead them to designated parking
spots. Although this happens daily at Yokota, taking care of aircraft
regardless of their origin is what transient alert does.
The 374th Maintenance Squadron Transient Alert conducts the mission 24/7
and provides vital assistance to aircraft and crew members. Transient
alert at Yokota handles on average 150-200 aircraft a month and 2,000
aircraft a year.
"Our primary mission is to support any and all aircraft landing at
Yokota that are not stationed here," said Tech. Sgt. John Lyon, 374 MXS
Transient Alert maintenance section chief. "We provide a "Follow-Me"
service to all transient aircraft and act as a maintenance liaison for
Transient alert not only provides servicing and maintenance support for
U.S. military aircraft, but also aircraft transiting through Yokota Air
Base, including Japan Self-Defense Forces, United Nations Command Rear
and commercial aircraft. With a variety of nations transiting through
Yokota, Lyon said he doesn't find the language barrier problem when
communicating with foreign personnel.
"Luckily, English is a universal language that most pilots and
maintainers use around the world, so we're able to get through most
conversations pretty well," Lyon added. "A lot of the time, the
(foreign) personnel passing through will be accompanied by someone who
speaks English. Our mission with the JASDF here on base is one that
really lets us work side by side and learn some of our host nation's
culture and language."
The day starts for transient alert with a pre-mission request from base
operations, providing information on transient aircraft arriving and
departing Yokota each day. The request is logged into their system,
along with any special requirements, including fuel needed or
distinguished visitors onboard.
The teams are familiar with the daily requests and aircraft handling,
according to Lyon, but one of the challenging aspects for transient
alert is dealing with last-minute diversions.
March 11, 2011, one of the most devastating earthquakes and tsunamis to
ever hit Japan disrupted flight operations at several Japanese airports,
including Tokyo's Narita International Airport. In response to the
crisis, Yokota Air Base became an interim landing site for 11 aircraft
that were diverted from quake-stricken airports.
"Operation Tomadachi was a great example of the outstanding work and
dedication these guys here at transient alert are known for," Lyon said.
"Immediately after the earthquake, members of the shop had to jump into
emergency-response mode as the base had to set up and support 11
commercial airliners diverting here. Alert members who were off-duty
quickly responded to support ongoing operations."
That night, base operation and transient alert rolled into Operation
Tomodachi and started making parking plans for contingency aircraft
parking, he added.
His team worked around the clock supporting Navy C-130H; Marine CH-46
Sea Knight, SH-60 Sea Hawk, UC-35 Citation, C-12 Huron and KC-130
Hercules; Air Force MC-130 Combat Shadow, MC-130 Combat Talom, HH-60
Pave Hawk and C-130 Hercules; as well as Royal Australian Air Force
C-17s and Royal Thai Air Force C-130s. A number of cargo, troop and
distinguished-visitor movements were also supported by his team,
according to Lyon.
"Overall, while it was a tragedy that the tsunami happened, it was
humbling to have an opportunity to support our host nation in such a
way," Lyon said, looking back on the Operation Tomodachi.