by Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris
18th Wing Public Affairs
4/13/2015 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members
from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army processed 150 families while
participating in a joint Non-combatant Evacuation Operation exercise
here April 8.
In an Okinawa-wide NEO, evacuees may have to go to the closest NEO
point, which may not always be the military branch their family is with,
so it is important for the different branches to work together to
familiarize themselves with the procedures.
Representatives from finance, the Red Cross, housing and more took
dependants and volunteers through the steps needed to take their family
from a rally point to being able to board an aircraft to a safe
"The purpose of this exercise is to acquaint family members of what the
process will be like," said Lorrie Perkins, 18th Force Support Squadron
Airmen and Family Readiness Center team lead. "It also lets us practice
with real families, so we get an idea of some of the challenges we face
[and] we can be better prepared in the eventuality that we have to
really do this."
With summer on its way, many new families are being stationed on Kadena
Air Base and some of them have never dealt with NEOs and may think they
can wait till the last minute to gather paperwork and supplies.
"It's a little easier on people if they understand the process and what
might be required ahead of time instead of waiting until a NEO situation
comes about and try to put stuff together," said Col. Debra Lovette,
18th Mission Support Group commander. "We are trying to decrease that
stress level [for] when a NEO actually happens by letting people know
what's available, what they might need to get out of town and what they
should be thinking about before they actually do any of it."
While some key items vary from family to family, one important item for any family is passports.
"Once they get into the NEO process, it is very likely they are going to
require a passport to get wherever it is they are going next, so that
is absolutely an essential to have," Lovette said. "Some families
require [certain] medical supplies, those are kind of critical because
you don't really know how long it's going to take to get to a location
that can resupply your medical needs, so you have to think through how
long you might need to have a supply on hand."
For families with kids, it is important to note they will have to wait
in line multiple places or be sitting in a queue for a while, so it is
recommended to bring electronics, chargers and other entertainment or
snacks. It is advised people bring enough food for three days per
person. Ideally, they'll never have to tap into that, because there will
be a plan in place -- but plans are subject to change.
Perkins said each person is allowed a suitcase weighing 25 pounds, so it
is important to figure out what is worth bringing and what can be left
Another important item to have prepared is an NEO folder and to make
sure one of the NEO wardens or unit representatives assigned to the
squadron has an updated map to the dependant's or other non-combatant's
home, if they cannot contact them by phone.
"A lot of the paperwork in the folders is pretty easy to keep and update
as you go," Lovette said. "Things change, so it is important to have it
put together now when you have time because it is pretty thorough."
The 18th Wing usually conducts a NEO exercise twice a year, but they are
looking at increasing the frequency of exercises depending on how much
more the other services will participate.