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Consider safety, quality of life and ecology — and scrap Futenma move

Special To The Japan Times

Dear President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin,

We write as veterans of the U.S. Army’s 137th Ordnance Company in Henoko, Okinawa, which became the Marines’ Camp Henoko after Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972. We all have vivid memories of a lush subtropical environment with serene beaches where we swam, snorkeled and fished. Many of us formed friendships with Henoko residents, some of which continue to this day, and two men in our unit married women there, returning with them to settle in the United States after their army tours ended.

Local residents oppose moving the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Henoko because of the profound impact this would have on their safety, their quality of life and the environment. Numerous crashes recently of U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa and elsewhere attest to the risks of personal injuries and property damage. The greatly increased noise, especially from helicopters, would disturb the villagers. Fuel and smoke pollution would contaminate the air and water, fouling the bay where we swam and driving away fish and other animal life, including the dugong, an internationally protected species.

Local voters have consistently expressed their opposition to the air base at Henoko in recent elections and opinion polls. In Nago’s mayoral election, voters chose the candidate opposed to construction of the base, which was the major issue in the campaign. If our government still insists on going ahead with the Futenma MCAS relocation to Henoko, protest demonstrations at the proposed site, ongoing for several years, will undoubtedly escalate, raising the possibility of a major confrontation that would cause a serious upheaval in U.S.-Japan relations at a time of heightened international tensions in the region.

Last August, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member John McCain, expressed their opposition to construction of an air base at Henoko.

Other members of Congress called the Henoko relocation “unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable.”

We strongly urge that plans for the air base be cancelled, especially with the projected redeployment of marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam and with more of their training scheduled for Australia.

Respectfully,

CAPT. THOMAS B. WYLIE
SPC. STEVE RABSON
SPC. EDGAR (“SKIP”) HULL
SPC. BOB SIGNORETTI
SPC. JOHN BERO
SPC. BOB POZNANSKI

This letter was sent in January. Send your comments or submissions (of between 500-700 words addressed to local, regional or national politicians, officials, ministries or other authorities) to community@japantimes.co.jp.