YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – The grandson of a Red Oak couple didn’t know what to expect. He’d seen pictures of the devastation on television and in the newspapers and he knew he had to help, but how? It didn’t take long for him to find out.

Air Force Senior Airman Michael J. Davis, grandson of Jim and Linda Powell of Meandering Way, Red Oak, was one of more than 20,000 U.S. military men and women, who have provided assistance in support of Operation Pacific Passage. The operation provides the authorized voluntary return of military family members from Japan in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan March 11. Operation Tomodachi provides humanitarian assistance and recovery operations to the people of Japan.

Operation Pacific Passage has airlifted more than 7,000 passengers and more than 400 pets via military and commercial aircraft from various locations in Japan and Operation Tomodachi has resulted in more than 400 missions being flown, more than 2800 tons of cargo and more than 400,000 pounds of fuel delivered. Military members are also assisting in the cleanup of communities and airports.

“As a passenger service agent, I helped process the Department of Defense civilians and military dependents who wanted to voluntarily leave the country,” said Davis, who is assigned to the 730th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Yokota.

While nothing can totally prepare service members with the training they need to handle a disaster of this magnitude, the fact that they must be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice has come in handy during this operation.

“This is my first time to be involved in an operation like this,” said Davis, who graduated in 2004 from Red Oak High School.

Operations of this type are very important because they further demonstrate the longstanding and close working relationships that the United States has developed with many countries around the world over the years.

“This type of exercise is important because it proves the global impact and difference that our military can make around the world,” Davis said.

Operation Tomodachi, or Operation Friendship, in the Japanese translation, means helping friends. For Davis and the others, it has become more like helping family.

“It was rewarding to see the relief on the passengers faces while we were processing them and relieving the stress they were under, made it a very worthwhile and fulfilling experience,” Davis said.