OKINAWA, JAPAN --
U.S. Marines across installations on Okinawa weathered Typhoon Khanun, a storm equivalent to a category four hurricane, in August 2023. After the storm, vehicle and property were damaged, and communication abilities limited both on and off-base. For many Marines, this was their introduction to island living.
June 1st signifies the beginning of typhoon season for Okinawa. Approximately 30 typhoons form each year in the southwestern portion of the Pacific Ocean, and Okinawa is hit by an average of seven to eight annually. Typhoon Khanun left more than 220,000 residents without power, and caused minor landslides, flash flooding, and heavy debris.
Lance Cpl. Adam Trump, a combat photographer with 3rd Marine Division, arrived on Okinawa just under two months ago and spoke about his experience of Typhoon Khanun.
“Throughout the duration of the storm, my command took proper precautions and had us secured in the barracks, we were able to telework for the entirety of the storm,” said Trump, a native of Thomas, Oklahoma. “I experienced a few power outages in my room, and some flooding, but we just continued to clean it. This is our home, I take great pride in it, and I want it to be the best home possible.”
Lance Cpl. Sheikhmoha Rahman, a telecommunications maintenance Marine with Communications Company, 3rd Marine Division, also looked to his peers and found support during the storm.
“It is my first typhoon I’ve ever been in,” said Rahman, a Buckhannon, West Virginia native. “It was crazy, my first-time seeing winds that high and my windows hiss so it was an experience.”
For some Marines, this was not their first experience of a typhoon while stationed abroad. Lance Cpl. Cory Calkins, a motor vehicle operator with Headquarters Company, 3rd Marine Division, and native of Auburn, New York, mentioned that this was his second typhoon experience.
“I’ve experienced one other typhoon last year, but Typhoon Khanun was more severe and caused more damage than that one,” said Calkins. “One thing I learned with this storm is that it’s important to stock up on supplies because you may not have the food or water you need. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. At the end of the day, you’re always going to have the people you work with there to help you out. Everyone is willing to do what they need to get through the storm. I feel closer to these guys than my family because I work with them day in and day out.”
Lance Cpl. Cutter Lust, a satellite transmissions system operator with Communications Company, 3rd Marine Division, aided in post-storm recovery efforts and said living in Okinawa wasn’t too different from being home during a time of crisis.
“The best piece of advice I can give is to communicate and solidify relationships with units across the island, MCIPAC, III MEF, and Marine Corps Community Services facilities because that is one of the number one aspects of typhoon readiness, preparedness, and recovery.” 1st Lt. William McCadden, a camp operations security officer with Marine Corps Installations Pacific
“I come from a small town, everyone has each other’s backs and Camp Courtney is like that,” said Lust. “A small, tight-knitted community and we were there for each other. If I needed anything I just messaged the group chat, and my chain of command was happy to help me.”
For U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. William McCadden, a camp operations security officer with Marine Corps Installations Pacific, his childhood experience with inclement weather set the example for what to expect in recovery operations.
“I’ve been on island for about nine months now, and while we’ve had a close pass with a typhoon in the past, this was the first one I’ve actually experienced,” said McCadden, a Colorado Springs, Colorado native. “When I was younger, my father was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia during Hurricane Katrina and we experienced issues with flooding on base. The entire base did well with community-coordinated efforts and taking care of each other; the efforts are the same here.”
McCadden spent the Typhoon as part of the emergency operations center and helped coordinate damage assessment and the security guard forces. He mentioned that both MCIPAC and III MEF are prepared for natural disaster situations.
The severity of the typhoon showed the importance of preparing supplies in advance, having emergency supplies, and having emergency action plans prior to experiencing disaster situations. Especially when living in a host nation away from friends and family.
“During inclement weather, families do get concerned for our safety, but the Marine Corps has a rigid structure of regulations and a strong system in place here at MCIPAC to ensure our personnel are safe,” he said. “We have several conditions in which we escalate to make sure everything is handled ahead of time – we can complete the mission with no friction.”
McCadden offered one final piece of advice to whoever may fill in as a leader during typhoon recovery operations.
“The best piece of advice I can give is to communicate and solidify relationships with units across the island, MCIPAC, III MEF, and Marine Corps Community Services facilities because that is one of the number one aspects of typhoon readiness, preparedness, and recovery,” he said. “That is how we keep our units here in the fight.”
Valuable emergency resources include AtHoc notifications and the Government of Japan’s “SafetyTips” application. Please visit https://www.iiimef.marines.mil/Emergency-Communication/ for more helpful links and information related to emergency weather conditions.