WASHINGTON, March 31, 2011 — A team of Marines specifically trained to operate in chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological environments is deploying to Japan, Defense Department officials said today.
A 155-member initial response force composed of Marines from Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Md., could arrive in Japan as early as tomorrow, said Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The unit is part of the Chemical, Biological, and Incident Response Force. The initial response force will support the U.S. on-scene commander by providing a rapid response capability. If requested, it could also advise Japanese authorities.
The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant is leaking radioactive materials, and the extent of the damage to the plant is not known. The Marine force will bring equipment for agent detection and identification; casualty search, rescue and personnel decontamination; and emergency medical care and stabilization of contaminated personnel.
As part of Operation Tomodachi, U.S. personnel continue to help the Japanese following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated large areas of northern Japan.
U.S. Navy divers helped to reopen the harbor at Hachinohe. American ships used side-scan sonar to survey the harbor’s waterway, enabling divers to remove obstacles such as vehicles, a small storage building, 20-foot storage containers and 100-ton concrete blocks the tsunami washed out to sea.
Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force and commercial divers are coordinating with U.S. 7th Fleet units to assess the port of Miyako and plan for clearance operations there. The U.S. units include the USNS Safeguard, the USS Tortuga, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 and Underwater Construction Team 2. The Navy teams may do the same in the port of Oshima after completion of operations at Miyako, officials said.
U.S. Navy barges containing 500,000 gallons of fresh water from Yokosuka are being used at the crippled nuclear power plant. The water will be used to replace salt water in the reactor cooling system to lessen the corrosive impact of salt from the sea water still being used for emergency cooling.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)