SUKUMO CITY, Japan - Lt. Michael Syamken, Dental Officer aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 46), surprised 11 Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) sailors by seeing patients in JS Shimokita’s (LST 4002) dental facilities, Jan. 27, near Sukumo Island.

During an officer exchange as part of ongoing transportation exercises between the U.S. Navy and JMSDF, Syamken noticed the JMSDF ship had dental facilities, but no dental officer on board. Both commanding officers agreed to an impromptu officer exchange, so Syamken, a dental hygienist, Corpsman 2nd Class Jessi Hicks, and a translator, Enginemen 2nd Class Berton Breyette, got underway on Shimokita.

“I saw a need and wanted to help,” said Syamken. “I couldn’t deny these sailors when I have the knowledge and resources to help.”

Sailors aboard Shimokita quickly formed a line outside their dental facility, and were grateful for the services they received.

“I have been with JDS for 28 years, and I have never seen something this wonderful between U. S. and Japan Navy,” said Lt. Cdr. Kengo Shingu, Shimokita’s Control Officer. “I was happy to be the first patient.”

Patients from Shimokita thanked the U.S. crewmembers for their help, and mentioned that opportunities such as this should continue in future engagements between the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Hicks, “Two countries come together to fill a critical void in a matter of moments.”

For second consecutive year, Tortuga is participating in transportation exercises with the JMSDF. Tortuga is part of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, under the direction of Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, Commander Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet.