Willard: Assisting Japan is ‘Highest Priority’

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2011 — U.S. forces in Japan are engaged in one of the biggest nat­ur­al and man­made dis­as­ters of a life­time, Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard said here tonight.
Willard, com­man­der of the U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand, spoke over the phone from Hawaii to the Pen­ta­gon press corps about what the U.S. mil­i­tary is doing to help the Japan­ese Self-Defense Force respond to the dis­as­ter caused by the March 11 earth­quake, tsuna­mi and sub­se­quent nuclear emer­gency.

“At U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand we’re all very sad­dened by the tremen­dous loss­es that the Japan­ese have expe­ri­enced,” Willard said, adding that he has served twice in Japan dur­ing his Navy career.

In an effort Pacom is call­ing Oper­a­tion Tomodachi — the Japan­ese word for friend­ship — “we are plac­ing our very high­est pri­or­i­ty on our oper­a­tions in sup­port of our ally Japan,” the admi­ral said.

Willard’s com­mand has Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army and Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand troops in Japan, Willard said, per­form­ing func­tions rang­ing from bring­ing food, water and oth­er sup­plies to the more than 500,000 dis­placed cit­i­zens of north­east Hon­shu, Japan’s main island.

“We’re pro­vid­ing logis­tics sup­port and in some cas­es direct sup­port,” Willard said, not­ing that Gen. Ryoichi Ori­ki, the chief of staff of Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force and his troops are help­ing to mit­i­gate sit­u­a­tions near dam­aged nuclear pow­er plants.

Willard said he and his wife will soon fly from Hawaii to Japan to “vis­it our forces and their fam­i­lies and engage our Japan­ese friends.”

“We’re con­fi­dent that Japan will achieve a full recov­ery and we’ll do our utmost to ensure that hap­pens,” he said.

Pacom has giv­en Gen. Ori­ki “a long list of areas in which we believe we can help,” Willard said. “We’re also seek­ing addi­tion­al ideas on unique tech­nolo­gies that we might bring in to help them with some of the most dif­fi­cult parts of assess­ing the con­di­tion of the reac­tors and then respond­ing to what they find.”

Willard said U.S. mil­i­tary forces have a mul­ti­tude of capa­bil­i­ties that are being shared with the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment and its mil­i­tary, and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions involved in the aid effort.

“We have tremen­dous logis­tics capa­bil­i­ties and we’re sup­ply­ing rel­e­vant equip­ment to the Japan­ese as well as to U.S. gov­ern­ment agen­cies as they come into sup­port this effort,” he said.

Oth­er U.S. capa­bil­i­ties, the admi­ral said, include radi­o­log­i­cal con­trols and teams in place to assist in every­thing from radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing to decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Air­borne sys­tems are being flown on heli­copters and air­planes to mon­i­tor radioac­tiv­i­ty in the area.

“Where we encounter radi­o­log­i­cal effects we report those broad­ly with­in our own forces and to the Japan­ese,” Willard said.

Teams on the ground have mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment, he said, not­ing indi­vid­u­als are car­ry­ing dosime­ters to mon­i­tor radioac­tiv­i­ty and ships also can gauge such activ­i­ty.

“We have assist­ed in bring­ing oth­er sys­tems into the coun­try that are able to char­ac­ter­ize some of the ground con­t­a­m­i­na­tion should it occur,” the admi­ral said.

Those sys­tems arrived into the region today, he said, and will fly on a reg­u­lar basis to assist both the U.S. and Japan­ese gov­ern­ments in char­ac­ter­iz­ing con­di­tions around dam­aged nuclear facil­i­ties.

A nine-mem­ber team of mil­i­tary experts has arrived in Japan from U.S North­ern Com­mand to con­duct a broad assess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion through­out the dis­as­ter area, includ­ing the area around the dam­aged Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant, Willard said.

The team, he said, also will deter­mine “whether or not we should ratio­nal­ize bring­ing a larg­er force for­ward. I have request­ed a force of about 450 radi­o­log­i­cal and con­se­quence man­age­ment experts to be avail­able to us there on a pre­pare-to-deploy order.”

Because of ris­ing lev­els of radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma plant, U.S. cit­i­zens are not allowed with­in 50 miles of the facil­i­ty, Willard said.

“While the 50-mile lim­it is a good idea for much of the human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter response effort that’s cur­rent­ly ongo­ing,” he added, “when nec­es­sary we will con­duct oper­a­tions inside that radius when they are in sup­port of the Japan­ese Defense Forces.”

Willard said U.S. forces are work­ing along­side peo­ple in orga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent­ing near­ly 100 oth­er coun­tries that also are pro­vid­ing aid and sup­port to the strick­en Japan­ese pop­u­lace.

“There’s a great syn­er­gy by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty in this effort and we’re proud to be a part of it,” he said.

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

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