Saturday, March 12, 2011

U.S. Navy Warships Reach Japan On Relief Mission

I'm sure many people have already heard the tragic news from Japan. A memorial service was held tonight at the Buddhist Temple of San Diego, which was attended by sangha members and also many people from the local community. For those who want to help, please contact the American Red Cross at

From the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Three San Diego-based warships -- the carrier Ronald Reagan, the destroyer Preble, and the cruiser Chancellorsville, have reached the east coast of Honshu, Japan, where they're preparing to provide humanitarian relief to the quake stricken country, say U.S. Pacific Fleet officials. A fourth vessel, the fast combat supply ship Bridge, which was built in San Diego by NASSCO, also is now in Japanese waters.

Pacific Fleet said in a statement, "Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) arrived on station off the coast of Japan March 12 at approximately 1 p.m. eastern ... Reagan will continue to operate near Japan in order to best support disaster relief efforts led by the Japan Self-Defense Force.

"To date, the JSDF has asked the aircraft carrier to provide refueling operations for their helicopters and to assist in the transportation of their troops to affected areas. As long time allies, U.S. and Japan forces are extremely interoperable U.S. Forces Japan is in constant contact with their JSDF counterparts as we continue to support their operations to aid the people of Japan.

"U.S. military assets are supporting the requests of the Government of Japan by providing logistical support to the JSDF. Two SH-60 helicopters from Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Fourteen (HS-14) from Naval Air Facility Atsugi delivering 1,500 pounds of rice and bread to Shiroishi City in Miyagi Prefecture. The food donation was from the people of Ebina City, Japan."

"Additional U.S. military assets continue to position themselves to provide the most expedient support needed at the request of the JSDF, which is leading the disaster relief efforts."

The Reagan finished pre-deployment exercises barely a week ago and set off for the western Pacific for a mission expected to last at least 5-6 months.

“People are in trouble and frequently countries look to us for assistance,” said Capt. Jeff Breslau in Hawaii, spokesman for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. “It’s second nature for us when there is a crisis to switch to that mindset.”

Navy personnel could help in various ways, including providing helicopter logistics support, transporting people and supplies, giving medical assistance, creating communications systems, conducting search-and-rescue operations and building shelters.

They also may offer water-purification services via aircraft carriers and other ships.

An aircraft carrier can produce 400,000 gallons of water daily, Breslau said.

The Navy not only responds worldwide, as it did for similar natural disasters in Haiti and Indonesia, it also works directly with local, state and federal agencies to prepare for similar disasters at home. A recent training hosted by the Navy in San Diego focused on how to respond to an attack on a military base.

Another training session planned for July will center on expected damage from a huge storm, which has been predicted to have enough force to cause deaths, produce floods and landslides, take out roads and displace large numbers of residents, said Ed Caviness, program director for training and readiness for Navy Region Southwest.

Before providing any help to civilians, military authorities in San Diego said they would first assess their bases for operational readiness, said Joe Stuyvesant, director of operations for Navy Region Southwest.

Once cleared, personnel on a base can respond locally within the first 72 hours under the direction of their commanding officer.

Afterward, they would need to receive clearance from the Department of Defense to continue such work or start new projects with civilian emergency responders.

Similarly, Japan or any country seeking U.S. military aid must ask the State Department for such help. Once a request has been filed, the U.S. Department of Defense would make the final decision, Breslau said.

The Armed Forces Press Service reported that Japan has asked the U.S. for support.

The warships on their way to Japan were already in the western Pacific for other missions. Along with three members of the Reagan Carrier Strike Group, the Essex, Harpers Ferry, Germantown, Tortuga and Blue Ridge are traveling to the disaster site, Breslau said.

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