Military Family Members Arrive From Japan
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2011 About 200 military family members arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state today after leaving Japan voluntarily, U.S. Army North officials said.
The family members left Yokota, Japan, aboard a government-chartered airplane, Army Col. Wayne Shanks, an Army North spokesman, told American Forces Press Service in a phone interview today.
Shanks stressed that the family members were not forced to flee. Rather, he said, those who decided to leave Japan likely did so as a precaution. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck northern Japan on March 11 and the tsunami that followed devastated the country, including destruction to viable infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants.
"We're providing for Department of Defense families who want to [leave] Japan, and that could be for a number of reasons," Shanks said. "I don't think the radiation threat is the overriding reason, … although it is a concern."
As what officials have called a prudent precaution, the Defense Department is providing eligible family members of department personnel an opportunity to voluntarily leave Japan at government expense.
The only priority for volunteers is for those closest to the disaster or threat, Army North officials said, and flights will continue throughout the foreseeable future to accommodate servicemembers and their families.
"The underlying thing is that we're here to help the people coming out of Japan," Shanks said. "We're doing whatever we possibly can to assist them."