Fuji, Japan - Above the small town of Fuji rests an historic US Armed Forces Camp that is run by the US Marine Corps. The base named after the mountain that it is literally notched out of has been a key training ground for US Armed Forces Members for decades. While the sound of live fire exercises, hustle and bustle of huge military convoys coming and going is all in a days work for the men and women stationed here the routine has been thrown a motivational curve ball over this years July 4th weekend in the form of world renowned high altitude climbers descending on the base. The mission- To Raise the Resiliency of these American Heroes.
Heroes, who in so many cases were assigned to Camp Fuji, after deployments in the combat zones of the middle east. "Never in my wildest nightmares did I think that I'd witness the level of tragedy that has taken place in Japan following the devastation of the earthquake this spring" says one US Marine who was a part of Camp Fuji's rapid response team, responsible for countless humanitarian efforts in and around the Sendai International Airport.
While the world held it's breath this spring as news of human lose of life, radiation containment and municipal distruction took over daily news casts, US Armed Forces members stationed throughout the region were volunteering to mobilize in what would later become labeled 'Operation Tomodachi' which literally translates to 'operation friendship'.
For the US Marines stationed at Camp Fuji, the response was immediate and no sooner had word spread of the disaster then Col. Craig Kozeniesky, Commanding Officer USMC Camp Fuji had over half his command standing by (all volunteer assignment) to receive movement orders from higher command. Those orders came within days and no sooner where those orders in the hands of Colonel Kozeniesky, along with 78 other Marines were rolling 500 kilomters north to an area just southwest of the earthquakes epicenter. "When we arrived at Sendai International Airport the scenes was one of pure distruction, it was one of the first times in my life that what I along with my Marines witnessed left us speachless, the distruction was just so complete" said Colonel Craig Kozeniesky. " If it hadn't been for our new mission tasking as one of the regions mountain warfare training centers, and the specialized winter gear that we supply (and brought) there would have been many cold and miserable days immediately following our deployment" he added.
Now months later, Col Kozeniesky's Marines are once again going to be dawning the mountain gear, but instead of moving 500+ kilometers to a war zone like area of operation, they will instead by going for a climb... right in their backyard.
Starting on July 4th local time/date, Kozeniesky along with over 60 Marines will be climbing up the country's most coveted peak - Mount Fuji. Joining his team will be Himilyaian climbing great Chhiring Dorje Sherpa a word record Mount Everest Climber and American high altitude medicine Doctor and climber Eric Meyer M.D. "We'll be climbing with the Marines who were involved in Operation Tomodachi while Robi Powers and Ed Bell, of American300 will be climbing with another group of relief workers from the US Army's 83rd OD BN." says Eric Meyer " The theme is 'ICHI DAN' which means ONE TEAM and our goal is to link up with the Army unit on the summit just before sunrise on Japan's July 5th"
American300 Foundation helped organize this positive climbing experience for the members of Camp Fuji and Kare US Army Ammunition Depot, when the organization was here months ago on a US Armed Forces Entertainment Tour featuring US Olympians, sharing their medals and stories of success with both of these units. " When we found out what these brave American Heroes had gone through in assisting the people of Japan, we felt the need to do something for them" says Robi Powers, organizer of the visit by American300. "Both Camp Fuji and Army Depot Kare are extreme remote deployment locations, the troops don't see a lot of morale welfare visitors, so this opportunity to be with these heroes on our nation's birthday is truly special," he added.
American300 isn't alone is showing its support of our Troops, earlier this year Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressed words on behalf of the country: "To all U.S. Military members, on behalf of the people of Japan, I sincerely express my deep appreciation for the tremendous support provided by the U.S. military, the U.S. government and the American people at a time of unprecedented crisis in Japan."
While weather forecasts show high winds and the potential for heavy rains, thanks to support by NIKE and USMC Mountain Cold Weather issued gear, the team of 4 American300 guests and over 80 US Service Members are looking forward to 'leaning forward' and making the summit prior to 4am on Japan's July 5th (US July 4th).
"We've got the gear, the experience and teamwork to pull this off, even with the nasty weather that the mountain is experiencing right now" says Captain Ken Tarr, USMC Camp Fuji. "I've got no doubt that the experience of our Marines and US Army soldiers climbing in these conditions with some of the world's greatest high altitude climbers, will make for a lifetime experience for our troops."
Honoring our Fallen and the Fallen of Japan's Earthquake is the underlying theme of the climb, and while there's a good chance that the team will be summiting in very difficult weather conditions, the plan is to hold a short memorial service for our Fallen US Service Members and those who lost their lives and property this spring here in Japan. Ichi Dan - One Team, One Mountain, Two Branches of our Armed Forces... climbing in the land of the rising sun... to honor and make friendships.
For daily updates on the tour, photos and videos please go to: www.American300.org