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Misawa families prep for voluntary departure from Japan

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Key Spouse Tina Farless, wife of 35th Medical Group First Sergeant Randy Farless, assists Misawa families with paperwork required to take advantage of the Department of State approved voluntary departure of family members March 19. Mrs. Farless is one of the many Key Spouse volunteers helping to ensure families out-processing runs smoothly. Family members will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Key Spouse Tina Farless, wife of 35th Medical Group First Sergeant Randy Farless, assists Misawa families with paperwork required to take advantage of the Department of State approved voluntary departure of family members March 19. Mrs. Farless is one of the many Key Spouse volunteers helping to ensure families out-processing runs smoothly. Family members will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Three-year-old David Finstuen, son of Senior Airman Kevin Finstuen, 35th communications Squadron, accompanies his father while completing paperwork needed for his family to take advantage of the Department of State-approved voluntary departure of family members March 19. Family members will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Three-year-old David Finstuen, son of Senior Airman Kevin Finstuen, 35th communications Squadron, accompanies his father while completing paperwork needed for his family to take advantage of the Department of Defense-approved voluntary departure of family members March 19. Family members will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Staff Sgt. Daniel Clark, 35 Maintenance Squadron, completes a power of attorney, with the help of SSgt Lenaha Kidd from the 35th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate Office, at the Department of State-approved voluntary departure of family members processing line March 19. Sergeant Clark?s family will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Staff Sgt. Daniel Clark, 35 Maintenance Squadron, completes a power of attorney, with the help of SSgt Lenaha Kidd from the 35th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate Office, at the Department of State-approved voluntary departure of family members processing line March 19. Sergeant Clark's family will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan - Concerned expectant mother, Marlene Zoellers, wife of Staff Sgt. Ryan Zoellers, 35th Maintenance Squadron, attends the Department of State-approved voluntary departure of family members processing line March 19. Twelve base agencies, such as medical, legal, chapel and post office, are participating in the processing line to help families ensure their affairs are in order prior to departure. Family members will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan - Concerned expectant mother, Marlene Zoellers, wife of Staff Sgt. Ryan Zoellers, 35th Maintenance Squadron, attends the Department of State-approved voluntary departure of family members processing line March 19. Twelve base agencies, such as medical, legal, chapel and post office, are participating in the processing line to help families ensure their affairs are in order prior to departure. Family members will temporarily relocate to the continental United States while restoration efforts continue in Japan after the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami Mar. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Through all the commotion going on in the Enlisted club ballroom due to the voluntary evacuation of Misawa Air Base family members, young 7 month old Regal Flores decides to take a nap in the safe arms of his mother Ashley Flores on March 19.  Mrs. Flores has decided to leave voluntarily so that her husband can focus on his job and volunteering to help the local community, without worrying about their safety.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Through all the commotion going on in the Enlisted club ballroom due to the voluntary evacuation of Misawa Air Base family members, young 7 month old Regal Flores decides to take a nap in the safe arms of his mother Ashley Flores on March 19. Mrs. Flores has decided to leave voluntarily so that her husband can focus on his job and volunteering to help the local community, without worrying about their safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. April Quintanilla\Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Military families here wishing to leave Japan after the March 11 natural disaster gathered at the base club March 19 with passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, pet records and other documents needed to sign up for the Department of Defense-approved voluntary authorized departure for military and DoD civilian dependents.

Representatives from 12 base agencies, such as the legal office, medical clinic, the post office and the chapel, helped families get their affairs in order prior to leaving.

"Families are being processed by priority status," said Essie Whitworth-Nurse, 35th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center director. "We started at 10 a.m. today with personnel who have urgent medical issues, and pregnant dependents, then onto the next priority group. We're prepared to be here daily, as long as is necessary to help those who want to leave."

Additional base population priority groups are families with infants and toddlers, families enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, families with deployed members, children traveling under the escort of someone other than their parent or legal guardian, families with children age 12 and younger, and all other qualifying military and civilian dependents.

This process is helping to take some of the stress out of the situation, said Loriel Hernandez, mother of two and wife of Tech. Sgt. Rex Hernandez, 35th Maintenance Operations Squadron. "We're leaving for South Carolina and I'm trying to just go with the flow. This process is helpful. Everyone here is polite and things are well-organized."

Once families have completed the necessary preparation steps, they'll stay tuned to base communication sources such as Armed Forces Network radio and television stations, or the base giant voice, commander's access channel or Face book page, to find out when to report to the club for final processing and aircraft boarding.

"Day 1 ended with the processing of more than 370 Misawa family members who volunteered to go back to the U.S. while their Airman, Soldier or Sailor focuses on their critical role in support of relief efforts here in Japan," said Capt. Julie Harrison, 35 FSS operations officer. "During their time apart, the professionals of Misawa Air Base will continue to get the mission done - helping to ensure the safety and security of our Japanese friends and allies."