Ships, Aircraft Support Japan Relief Effort

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2011 — Four­teen U.S. Navy ships and their air­craft and 17,000 sailors and Marines are now involved in the human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief efforts in Japan, a Defense Depart­ment spokesman said here today.
Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said the mil­i­tary effort has includ­ed 113 heli­copter sor­ties and 125 fixed-wing sor­ties, mov­ing peo­ple and sup­plies, help­ing in search and res­cue efforts, and deliv­er­ing 129,000 gal­lons of water and 4,200 pounds of food.

The USS Tor­tu­ga, with heavy-lift MH-53 heli­copters aboard, has com­plet­ed load­ing 273 Japan­ese Ground Self-Defense Force troops, 93 vehi­cles and equip­ment for deliv­ery tomor­row in Oni­ma­to, he said.

The USS Blue Ridge, the com­mand ship for Navy Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk, com­man­der of the U.S. 7th Fleet, is sched­uled to arrive tomor­row and is expect­ed to remain in the area, Lapan said.

The USS Essex, USS Harpers Fer­ry and the USS Ger­man­town — with the 31st Marine Expe­di­tionary Unit aboard — “will remain on the west­ern side [of Hon­shu] rather than tran­sit around to the east because of the at-sea debris field and the radi­a­tion haz­ard,” he added.

The haz­ard was cre­at­ed by tsuna­mi dam­age to reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant. Some Navy air­men and sailors par­tic­i­pat­ing in relief mis­sions off the air­craft car­ri­er USS Ronald Rea­gan were exposed in the past few days to low-lev­el radi­a­tion, and 17 crew mem­bers under­went decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion pro­ce­dures, Lapan said. The Rea­gan and its escort ships have moved north, but remain in the vicin­i­ty, he said.

The 2,200-member expe­di­tionary unit, Lapan said, will move to Sendai to help in clean­ing up the mil­i­tary air­port there.

The Unit­ed States also has deliv­ered two fire trucks from mil­i­tary bases for use by the Japan­ese, who have since request­ed more hoses and pumps.

The USNS Safe­guard deliv­ered high-pres­sure water pumps to Yoko­ta Air Base for trans­fer to the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment for use at the Fukushi­ma pow­er plant, 7th Fleet offi­cials said, and four more pumps were deliv­ered from Sase­bo this after­noon.

Air Force C‑17s and C‑130s deliv­ered 19 gen­er­a­tors to Mis­awa Air Base for the base’s pow­er sys­tem and resup­ply pal­lets to Yoko­ta Air Base. U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand offi­cials said both bases are recov­er­ing from the earth­quake and tsuna­mi and are sup­port­ing relief efforts in their regions.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers Japan Dis­trict pro­vid­ed an admin­is­tra­tion sys­tem to help the U.S. Army Japan dis­as­ter assess­ment team with debris-removal efforts. The corps is work­ing on a plan to clear debris from air­fields crit­i­cal to logis­tics and human­i­tar­i­an mis­sions, and is help­ing U.S. Army Japan to deliv­er 50,000 water bot­tles to dis­as­ter sur­vivors.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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