USA — Service Members Assist Japanese Quake Victims

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2011 — Japan’s earth­quake and tsuna­mi are tragedies on an epic scale, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today, and the U.S. mil­i­tary will do all it can to help.
The Unit­ed States has about 50,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel in Japan and already has respond­ed to some imme­di­ate needs for the peo­ple of north­ern Japan.

“We’ve got about … a dozen ships that are either there or en route, a lot of air­craft asso­ci­at­ed with those ships.” Mor­rell said in an MSNBC inter­view this morn­ing. “They have been doing search-and-res­cue oper­a­tions, and they have been pro­vid­ing relief sup­plies as well.”

The sit­u­a­tion is fur­ther com­pli­cat­ed by the con­di­tions of Japan­ese nuclear plants affect­ed by the quakes. Some Navy air­men and sailors par­tic­i­pat­ing in relief mis­sions off the USS Ronald Rea­gan have been exposed to radi­a­tion that leaked from these plants. The expo­sure was at such low lev­els that they washed it off with soap and water, Mor­rell said.

“They’ve since moved the Ronald Rea­gan Car­ri­er Strike Group [from the] down­wind area of that Fukushi­ma plant,” Mor­rell said.

U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers are stand­ing by to deliv­er what aid the Japan­ese need, and the num­ber of U.S. per­son­nel involved in aid efforts will rise and fall, depend­ing on Japan­ese needs, he added.

The USS Ronald Rea­gan Car­ri­er Strike Group con­tin­ues oper­a­tions off the east coast of Hon­shu, Pen­ta­gon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said today. The Unit­ed States has eight ships east of Hon­shu with five more on the way.

“In the upcom­ing days, the Ronald Rea­gan will serve as an afloat plat­form for heli­copters from the Japan Self-defense Force, the Japan­ese coast guard and oth­er civil­ian author­i­ties,” Lapan said.

“We con­duct­ed air oper­a­tions today with 10 heli­copters from the Naval Sta­tion in Atsu­gi and the USS Rea­gan fly­ing relief mis­sions iden­ti­fy­ing peo­ple in need of assis­tance in the region of Mina­to, and deliv­ered food and blan­kets,” he con­tin­ued. The chop­pers also flew sur­veys of the at-sea debris field and flew search-and-res­cue mis­sions along the coast.

The USS Tor­tu­ga, with heavy-lift MH-53 heli­copters, is steam­ing toward the east­ern coast. “They will on-load 300 Japan­ese Ground Self-Defense Force per­son­nel and 90 vehi­cles and deliv­er them to the north­ern tip of Hon­shu,” Lapan said. Oth­er U.S. ships are expect­ed to arrive in the area March 17.

The Navy has P‑3 Ori­on air­craft fly­ing to help in area sur­vey­ing efforts.

Lapan said no U.S. bases are in the dan­ger zone for radioac­tiv­i­ty, and that there are no plans to evac­u­ate any U.S. per­son­nel or their fam­i­lies.

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

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