US military ignores local residents’ objections to parachute drop training in Uruma

US military ignores local residents’ objections to parachute drop training in Uruma

Over the sea near Tsuken Island at 11:52 a.m. on February 23 soldiers drop one-by-one from the MC-130 aircraft and parachute into the water. (Photograph courtesy of Yasuhide Matayoshi)

February 24, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

On February 23 a little after 11:30 a.m., the U.S. Air Force conducted parachute drop training over the water at the Tsuken Island Training Area in Uruma City. The Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) notified residents of Uruma City the day prior that there might be parachute training. Okinawans are protesting to have water training areas contained at Ie-jima, based in the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) final report. Despite repeated protests, local opinions are being ignored and municipal governments’ opposition considered inevitable as training is enforced. In January, too, drop training was conducted over the water without notification.

At three separate intervals past 11:30 a.m. a U.S. Air Force Special Operations MC-130 aircraft dropped a total of 13 parachutes into the water. Twelve of the parachutes carried soldiers and the remaining one held a black bundle of items. After landing in the water the soldiers engaged in recovery operations for about 30 minutes and headed back White Beach on three ships.

Under the SACO agreement Yomitan Auxiliary Airfield parachute drop training was to be relocated to Ie-jima. Okinawa and Uruma residents have been appealing for such training to not be conducted apart from at Ie-jima. However, the Japanese government presents the perspective that only drop training on land is subject to the agreement, and allows drop training over the water. When training occurs relevant administrative bodies appeal to the Japanese government and U.S. military, but national and local perspectives do not align and the issue is not resolved.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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