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Marine aircraft, helicopters unwanted by local communities

Date Posted: 2005-02-25

Cargo and refueling aircraft are shifting from Futenma to Kadena Air Base.

Kadena officials are voicing opposition.

Helicopters and aircraft are returning from Iraq and other overseas destinations to Futenma Marine Corps Air Station.

Ginowan officials are voicing opposition.

There just doesn’t seem to be a happy ending to the story. Instead, officials predict the coming months will become loud as the controversial Marine Corps base and its planes and helicopters return to the island in numbers.

Seventeen Marine Corps aircraft are being shifting from Futenma to Kadena on a temporary basis, triggering an outcry from Kadena Town Assembly leaders. A team lead by base affairs committee chairman Yasuei Tanaka went to Kadena, where they protested the action.

Tanaka told an 18th Wing Mission Support Group commander, Colonel Dennis Delaney, the move is dangerous. He cited a recent incident where a KC-130 made an emergency landing at Kadena after a fuel hose did not properly retract into the plane’s body. The Kadena leader told the Air Force his town did not want the Marines moving to Kadena, noting the Henoko plan is still on the books.

The group later filed a similar protest with the American leader of the U.S. Forces Japan on Okinawa, Colonel Gerry Turnbow. Turnbow accepted the protest, but reminded them the military’s mission is paramount. He didn’t address the concerns over the aircraft hose incident.

The Kadena Town delegation also visited the Defense Facilities Administration Bureau in Naha, underscoring their concerns that any permanent movement of forces from Futenma to Kadena would increase both the noise and danger levels. They then traveled further into Naha to make the same appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On the other side, Ginowan mayor Yoichi Iha continues his demands that Futenma be closed, and aircraft not be allowed to return. As U.S. troops begin a return from temporary duty in Iraq, the controversial CH-53D Sea Stallions are expected to come back soon. One has already returned from mainland Japan. A Sea Stallion crashed in Ginowan last August, injuring the three crewmen but causing only property damage on the Okinawa International University campus.

Iha wants the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force helicopters stationed anywhere but his city, expressing fear of another accident.

He’s voiced his concerns this week to Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine’s Executive Office, asking them to relay his feelings to the American Base Review Board. Iha wants the base closed immediately.

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