SEATTLE (March 23, 2011) Cmdr. Manuel Biadog, Jr., Naval Base Kitsap command chaplain, entertains a child while his mother waits for her luggage at Seattle International Airport after arriving from Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Lockwood)

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) - The last large group of Department of Defense dependents departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka, March 24, as authorized by the voluntary military-assisted departure (VMAD).

The U.S. Department of State authorized the voluntary, military-assisted departure for eligible dependents of U.S. service members and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians assigned to installations on the main island of Honshu, Japan, March 16.

The departure was authorized due to the 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami, and the resulting uncertainty surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Honshu, March 11.

VMAD should not be confused with the term evacuation, as military and DoD civilians were not directed to leave. Each family had to make the decision based on factors for their unique situation.

"The best thing we have been able to do throughout this whole process is to give people a peace of mind during a very stressful situation," said Ester Franklin, Yokosuka Middle School ASCS counselor, who has volunteered to help with the processing at the fleet recreation center.

Fleet Activities Yokosuka registered and transported more than 1,300 dependents who travelled by government contracted flights from Yokosuka to Seattle, and Travis Air Force Base.

Personnel Support Detachment (PSD) Yokosuka has processed more than 3,100 flight requests through the commercial travel office (CTO) for travel out of Japan since the authorization went into affect.

"We've gone into 24-hour service mode, setting up a three-section rotation, so that we may accept requests for government-funded travel around the clock," said Lt. Cmdr. Jed Espiritu, PSD Yokosuka officer-in-charge. "The commercial travel office here has also put in long hours, coming in on weekends all without a single complaint, something monumentally important in this operation."

Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) hosts 82 tenant commands that support operating forces throughout the Western Pacific, including 11 high-operational-tempo warships forward deployed.

CFAY, PSD Yokosuka, and other commands came together to accomplish a unified, customer-focused mission.

"Throughout this operation, I've seen continuous improvement in the way we process, track, and ticket flights," said Espiritu. "I've watched customers here being kind and considerate to other customers, and our clerks, despite some confusion and anxiety, even dropping off cookies and baked goods. I've seen overwhelming support for Yokosuka dependents from our assigned Chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Doug Vrieland, the Fleet and Family Support Center, and various other commands that have volunteered to provide comfort and assistance to the family members departing from Japan."

The last volunteer departure requests will be taken today, March 25.

Departed personnel will be provided return travel to Japan when directed by the Under Secretary of Defense.

"CFAY is looking forward to the return of family members who departed voluntarily," said CFAY Command Master Chief (CMDCM) Gregory Vidaurri. "Once authorization is provided for the return of our family members, our goal is reunite our Sailors with their families as soon as possible."

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