It seems as though there is always some type of military related news going on recently in Okinawa. Whether it is the position of the people related to the Osprey or the misconduct of a United States Military member it seems like there’s always something. From my experience there are foreigners (as well as some Japanese people who do not live in or travel to Okinawa) out there who seem to have trouble wrapping their heads around why some of these issues are concerning to those who are in Okinawa. For that reason I figure that I would take a moment to share with you my thoughts on the topic as someone who lives here long term as a non-military person.
PET Bottle falls from Osprey – The Facts:
According to an article in JapanToday on Tuesday February 5th a PET bottle fell from an MV-22 Osprey during a training flight near Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan City. The bottle was 22cm long bottle (aprox. 8in) and was said to have landed outside the base. Officials from the prefectural government of Okinawa then delivered a letter of protest to the US Marine Corps which urged them to ensure that this type of incident does not happen again.
Before we go any further I want to take a moment to explain some of what you just read above. Firstly I think it’s important to explain just what a PET bottle is. A PET bottle is a recyclable plastic bottle with a twist cap. In the US we usually just call them plastic bottles but here in Japan they have a name of their own. Just like in the US they come in various shapes and sizes. As mentioned above the article the one that fell from the Osprey was about 8 inches in length.
Second I want to take a moment to talk about Ginowan City. Ginowan City is where Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is located. The city quite literally hugs the entire base with neighborhoods immediately outside the fence line on all sides. The city is also quite dense for such a small island with about 12,500 people per square mile. In comparison that’s about the same population density of Boston Massachusetts which has about 12,700 people per square mile.
What’s the big deal:
One would think it common sense that an object falling from a plane would be a big deal or at least something to raise an eyebrow at. Unfortunately for some people out there this is not the case. Now, I am not going to get into a science discussion about the amount of force and what damage could or could not have happened as a result of this PET bottle falling out of the plane. In my opinion there are too many details such as the actual weight of the bottle and how much contents were remaining to even begin making those kinds of exact estimations. However, I do feel that it’s safe to say that an object such as a PET bottle would have some type of impact when falling from an aircraft which, if I remember correctly, can fly at a minimum of 500 feet up.
Under the (relatively safe) assumption that a PET bottle falling from a plane at a minimum height of 500 feet in the air could potentially cause some sort of damage and/or injury there are concerns that those living in the area have. One of the concerns is what would happen if some type of damage had been caused. Unfortunately this is an area which is made very grey. If you’re living in the Ginowan area chances are your lease contains a clause stating that the housing agency and/or landlord is not responsible for damage due to military aircraft. This may also be the case elsewhere, however, I have only lived in Ginowan during my time here. On the other hand you may think that this is because the US Military would compensate for any damages however this is most likely not the case. In fact this has been a topic of discussion for some time here in Okinawa based on various agreements as stated in the Status of Forces Agreement however it is most recently noted during the time that the Osprey were first deployed here to Okinawa. Prefectural Officials of Okinawa voiced their concerns however they were not answered and the story got little coverage.
Is this really an Osprey Issue:
There’s no denying the fact that this PET bottle having fell from an Osprey just added fuel to the already blazing fire. However, there is no denying that a bottle falling from a plane could have happened from any of the many military planes we have flying above us here in Okinawa. I even found myself chuckling at the statement in the JapanToday article which mentioned that the incident was due to “human error”. Of course it was human error, I mean I’m not Osprey engineer but I’m thinking that the PET bottle falling was not a result of poor construction of the aircraft itself.
What it all boils down to is that this was an accident. I honestly don’t believe (although I suppose it’s not entirely impossibly) that a Marine was up in the Osprey wondering the uproar he or she would cause of they dropped a PET bottle out the rear hatch. This being said just because it was an accident doesn’t mean that there is no reason for concern from the residents. It’s the same type of concern a mother has the first time that she lets her teenage son drive his little sister to ballet class. As they say “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye”.
I also don’t believe that this accident should be disregarded by the US Military either. After all, they are under scrutiny with the Osprey as it is and it would be in their best interest to ensure that they go the extra mile so that they do not cause any more reason for the people to dislike them. Unfortunately even in the short time that they have been here on the island that has not been the case.
See the articles: