U.S. Forces Provide Relief Aid to Japan

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2011 — U.S. mil­i­tary forces are work­ing along­side their Japan­ese coun­ter­parts to pro­vide aid as the coun­try digs out in the after­math of the mas­sive 8.9 mag­ni­tude earth­quake and tsuna­mi that struck March 11.
“Because of the long­stand­ing and close work­ing rela­tion­ship between the U.S. mil­i­tary and its Japan­ese coun­ter­parts on a dai­ly basis, the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary has human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance capa­bil­i­ties posi­tioned in the affect­ed regions that are ready to sup­port emer­gency relief efforts and min­i­mize human suf­fer­ing,” U.S. Ambas­sador to Japan John V. Roos said in a state­ment to the media yes­ter­day.

Dubbed Oper­a­tion Tomodachi — Japan­ese for “friend­ship” — U.S. mil­i­tary assets mobi­liz­ing in the area include a wide range of equip­ment, air, sea, and ground capa­bil­i­ty and exper­tise.

“We have units from all of our ser­vices, with a mul­ti­tude of capa­bil­i­ties, from med­ical to com­mu­ni­ca­tions to civ­il engi­neer­ing, poised and ready to sup­port where need­ed,” Roos said.

Yoko­ta Air Base in Japan was instru­men­tal in recov­er­ing air­line traf­fic in the hours imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the earth­quake, Roos said. Also, Yoko­ta is being used as an alter­nate air­field for planes that can­not land at Tokyo’s Nari­ta Air­port. The air base is also pro­vid­ing food and shel­ter for dis­placed Japan­ese, accord­ing to reports.

U.S. Air Force and Marine heli­copter and trans­port air­craft were moved from Oki­nawa to the U.S. mil­i­tary bases on Hon­shu.

Two SH-60 Sea­hawk heli­copters from the U.S. Naval Air Facil­i­ty Atsu­gi have already deliv­ered 1,500 pounds of rice and bread to peo­ple in the town of Shi­roishi, in one of the worst-hit parts of Japan, accord­ing to reports.

Marines and sailors from III Marine Expe­di­tionary Force are sup­port­ing relief oper­a­tions and its sub­or­di­nate units are pro­vid­ing com­mand and con­trol, avi­a­tion and logis­tics sup­port, accord­ing to Marine Corps offi­cials.

The troops are capa­ble of pro­vid­ing food, water, trans­porta­tion and oth­er relief sup­port.

The prox­im­i­ty of avi­a­tion assets at Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Futen­ma in Oki­nawa has allowed Marines from III MEF to quick­ly deploy crit­i­cal­ly need­ed sup­plies and aid to areas that need it most, offi­cials said.

“In a mat­ter of hours sup­plies, gear and man­pow­er began flow­ing into main­land Japan with more to fol­low,” said Marine Lt. Col. Karl C. Rohr, the assis­tant chief of staff of cur­rent oper­a­tions for III MEF.

Yes­ter­day, CH-46E Sea Knight heli­copters with Marine Medi­um Heli­copter Squadron 265, III MEF, depart­ed Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Futen­ma bound for Naval Air Facil­i­ty Atsu­gi on main­land Japan.

A squadron from Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Yuma in Ari­zona also has been tapped to help with the relief efforts.

The air­craft car­ri­er USS Ronald Rea­gan is now off the coast of Japan’s main island of Hon­shu and the USS Tor­tu­ga is expect­ed to arrive today.

Accord­ing to reports, the Rea­gan is serv­ing as place for Japan­ese heli­copters to land and refu­el. There are two escort ships with the Rea­gan and four more destroy­ers on the way to con­duct search and res­cue, accord­ing to reports.

The Tor­tu­ga is loaded with two heavy lift MH-53 Sea Stal­lion heli­copters. The USS Essex, an amphibi­ous ship car­ry­ing a 31st Marine Expe­di­tionary Unit is still a cou­ple days away. The USS Blue Ridge, a com­mand ship loaded with relief sup­plies, has left Sin­ga­pore but it will get to Japan after Essex.

The U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobil­i­ty Com­mand forces are poised to sup­port relief oper­a­tions in Japan, accord­ing to AMC offi­cials.

Numer­ous AMC air­craft and crews have been placed on alert, accord­ing to offi­cials, posi­tion­ing forces to take-off with­in hours of receiv­ing the call to sup­port the human­i­tar­i­an relief effort.

Tanker and air­lift air­craft are includ­ed in the alert pos­ture. Forces from the 615th Con­tin­gency Response Wing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., are poised to deploy to open and oper­ate air­fields and receive and off-load human­i­tar­i­an relief sup­plies, accord­ing to a release.

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

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