Kadena Air Base is a United States Air Force installation on the Japanese island of Okinawa, often referred to as the “Keystone of the Pacific”. At present, it is the largest United States Air Force base in the Pacific region. Kadena Air Base is home to the Air Force’s largest combat air wing, the 18th Wing. The large military population of the base is anchored by the 18th Wing, units of the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy and forty additional tenant units that represent all six authorities of the Air Force.
Shared cooperation of Okinawa and mainland Japan were established in 1960, which permitted the permanent stationing of several US military entities in the region. Per the terms of the agreement, United States military forces are granted access to the land and resources of the country in exchange for shouldering a portion of the defense responsibilities and overall national security of Japan. Kadena Air Base is able to meet these responsibilities by proving overwhelming air combat forces and accompanying ground forces if need be, all within a rapid response format.
Currently, Kadena Air Base is home to over 7,500 active duty airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines. Military family members, Department of Defense contractors and Japanese civilian employees bring the population of the base to a staggering 20,000 plus. The base covers over 11,000 square acres between two separate areas, the largest portion of which is used primarily for storage. Kadina Air Base has two nearly identical 12,100 foot runways that are flanked by 15 reinforced and shielded aircraft hangers. The length and construction of the runways allow Kadena to receive any aircraft in the United States or Japanese aircraft fleet.
The history of Kadena Air Base begins in the years prior to the United States invasion of Okinawa in early April of 1945. A Japanese construction firm completed a small air field, Yara Hikojo, just adjacent to the small island village of Kadena. The air field was used to launch rapid air attacks on approaching US forces, but was quickly captured when Marines and soldiers invaded the island. The 4,600 crushed coral runway was badly damaged in the fighting, but within 24 hours Army combat engineers were able to repair the runway to the point it could handle emergency landings. In the coming days, engineers were able to add another six inches of coral depth to the runway, making it usable for regular landings and takeoffs. An additional runway was constructed in August of 1945 and both were reinforced in order to handle heavy bomber landings.
The housing office of Kadena Air Base handles all housing requests for incoming service members and Department of Defense employees. Civilian housing requests are handled secondary to military requests. Incoming civilian employees will only be assigned base housing when space is available. Housing at Kadena Air Base is covered by 135 single rooms with private bathrooms, 47 apartments and seventeen dorms.
The National Association for The Education of Young Children has fully accredited all childcare facilities at Kenda Air Base. Due to a shortage of staff, job training is available for anyone one the island who wants to be trained and make a career in child care. Family child care is available for children of all ages before and after school hours, including three centers that work exclusively with children from 6 weeks of age to 5 years.
On Base Schools
Children at Kenda Air Base attend American public schools run by the Department of Defense. There are 13 total schools in Okinawa for children, covering all age groups through high school. The Exceptional Family Member Program can provide accommodations for military families of children with special needs; however they need to register with their current command before PCSing to Kenda AB.
The 18th Medical Group at Kenda Air Base operates the single largest medical center in the United States Air Force. Twelve buildings and 450 staff members provide dental and medical care to all service members and dependents in the area. An emergency medical services network is on call 24 hours a day to provide transport to the area Naval hospital and the U.S. Hospital Okinawa at Camp Lester provides a neonatal intensive care unit.