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John Traxler presented his analysis of Yamagata Airport, Matsushima Air Base, and Sendai International Airport. Yamagata was not impacted by the earth- quake or tsunami however, it was ruled out as a primary field due to its location on the West side of a mountain range prone to bad weather and limited naviga- tional aids. Additionally, ramp space at Yamagata was limited and we believed the joint force would quickly MOG out the airfield’s small military ramp. Matsushima AB had two runways of which, the main runway was under water and covered with a significant amount of debris. The shorter, C-130 capable, run-

11 made it appear that Sendai IAP was not suitable for any fixed-wing flight operations without significant runway clearing operations. Suitable helicopter landing zones were identified for possi- ble use to insert STS teams for clearing and survey operations. During the USFJ CUB on 14

March, senior leaders discussed the shortcomings of Yamagata Airport and Matsushima AB as strategic hubs. Sendai IAP was identified as the most strategic airfield for USFJ to utilize as the central hub for HA/DR missions into the Tohuku region however; US and Japanese leaders were convinced that Sendai IAP could not be re-opened due to the extensive damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami. Following the USFJ CUB, Colonel Toth directed Major Traxler to develop a CONOP for inserting a team of combat con- trollers, pararescuemen, and support personnel into Sendai IAP utiliz- ing MH-60 helicopters. Their mission would be to survey and clear 3,500 feet of runway in order to allow MC-130s to infil heavy equip- ment required to clear the airfield and open it for humanitarian relief operations. Colonel


briefed the CONOP for Operation Kaitakusha (Pathfinder) to Lt Gen Field, USFJ/CC on the evening of 14 March

way appeared relatively clear of debris and possibly useable. Since Matsushima AB was a main Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) F-2 base, we did not believe this would be a viable long term operating base. The unknown status of the wing’s aircraft also led us to assume the base would resume normal opera- tions and not allow United States forces to use the airfield as a central hub for HA/DR operations. Aerial photography and satellite imagery taken on 13 March

2011 and received approval to execute. The approved mission was to utilize three MH-60s to insert a team of para- resumen and combat controllers from the 320 STS onto Sendai IAP. Once on the airfield, the team would coordinate with the Sendai Airport Authority for permission to clear at least 3,500 x 60 feet of runway for MC-130 ops, survey the field, and open the field for MC-130 operations. Colonel Toth directed the mission to be launched at 0800L on 15

March 2011 in order to complete infiltra- tion before a fast approaching weather system closed helicopter routes between Yokota AB and Sendai IAP. On 15 March 2011, Operation

Kaitakusha commenced. Approximately 20 minutes after departure, all three MH-60s were recalled to Yokota AB in order to pick up dosimeters due to the emerging radiation threat from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station. It took nearly six hours to locate the dosimeters and issue them to the aircrews and special tactics personnel. Once the crews had dosimeters in hand, the mission to open Sendai IAP resumed. However, helicopter crews ran into a line of severe weather 80 miles from Sendai IAP and aborted the mission. Upon landing back at Yokota, the

team received an updated weather brief- ing that forecast similar conditions over the next four days. Based on the forecast, Colonel Toth directed CONOP develop- ment for a fixed-wing option. Quickly Lt Col Zimmerman, 17

SOS/CC, and Major Traxler, 320 STS/ CC, gathered planners and began CONOP development. After a careful examination of overhead imagery and aerial photos of Sendai Airport, it was determined that neither runway at Sendai IAS was suitable for C-130 operations without accepting high risk. Colonel Toth determined that without additional clearing, risk to force and mission of landing at Sendai IAP was too high to accept. As such, he directed the team to plan an infiltration of the team with two HMMWVs into either Yamagata Airport or Matsushima AB in order to execute an overland movement to Sendai IAP. Due to its close proximity to

Sendai IAP, our planning focused on Matsushima AB. Aerial photographs of runway 15/33, a 4,900 foot strip, at Matsushima AB looked very promis- ing. We contacted JASDF officials at the base to confirm the status of their two runways. The JASDF official stated that the airfield was closed due to loss of power which shut down the tower and navigational aids. Additionally the main runway was unusable due to large amounts of debris on the runway. They confirmed the 4,900 foot runway 15/33 was sound with little debris on the


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