RICHARDSON, Texas – Major General Craig Timberlake, United States Marine Corps (Retired) has been awarded one of Japan’s highest honors: the Order of the Rising Sun, for his contributions to the Japan-US alliance and leadership during Operation Tomodachi.

Established by the Japanese emperor in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun is “awarded by the Japanese Government to those who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field, development in welfare or preservation of the environment,” according to the Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. 

Major General Timberlake, who serves at the ILTexas Chief of Student Leadership Development, was conferred the award by the Japanese government on Monday, July 26, for his contribution to the Japan-United States Alliance during his time as a General in Okinawa, Japan. A ceremony for Timberlake was held in Washington D.C. at the historical residence of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States.

Photos courtesy of Embassy of Japan in USA.

On March 11, Japan saw one of its darkest days when a massive 9.1 earthquake and 140+ foot tsunami ravaged the Japanese northeast coastline. More than 15,500 lives were lost and more than 450,000 people became homeless as the result of the tsunami.

The U.S. Pacific Command (now known as the Indo-Pacific Command) set up a response force and Major General Craig Timberlake was chosen to lead the Bilateral Coordinating Assistant Team (BCAT). Major General Timberlake and his team traveled to the Japanese North Eastern Army Headquarters where he worked in collaboration with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Lt. Gen. Eiji Kimizuka on the recovery effort.

Throughout the effort, which would become known as Operation Tomodachi, Major General Timberlake and his Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of all branches of the service would act as the liaison between the Japan military and the American military, ensuring that the Japanese people received any aid needed from the Americans.

One of the greatest challenges faced was the destruction of the Sendai Airfield, which prevented critically needed resources from being delivered to those on the ground. Local officials believed it would take months to restore the airfield to a usable state, but 96 hours after Major General Timberlake’s Marines arrived, runways had been cleared enough for cargo planes to land and supplies to be delivered.

Operation Tomodachi would become the largest Japan-U.S. bilateral operation since the inception of the alliance dating back to post-World War II. Nearly 25,000 U.S. service members assisted with aid efforts across the affected areas of Japan for months.

“The cornerstone to peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific theater is the alliance between Japan and the United States,” said Major General Timberlake. “This award represents the many countless contributions of the fine young American servicemembers and their families that I had the honor and privilege to lead.”

Following his retirement, Major General Timberlake joined ILTexas where he took on the role of Chief of Student Leadership Development where he is responsible for ensuring that our students are receiving a world class education in servant leadership.

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