PACIFIC OCEAN (March 13, 2011) Sailors aboard USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) recover a rigid-hull inflatable boat during small boat operations off the coast of Japan. McCain is near the epicenter of the recent earthquake to help search for anyone or anything that might have drifted out to sea. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Talley Reeve)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) departed from Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka on March 12, to provide humanitarian assistance in support of earthquake and tsunami relief operations in Japan as directed.

“We had just pulled into Yokosuka when I got the word to head back out and proceed north. We’re now part of the search and rescue operations taking place off of the coast of Japan,” said Cmdr. Matt Lehman, commanding officer of John S. McCain.

“As a member of Destroyer Squadron 15 and the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, we’ll be working side-by-side with USS Ronald Reagan and other Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ships, helping with any humanitarian operations that come up,” he added.

McCain’s mission involves using rigid-hull inflatable boats to search for anything adrift in the water and providing support for any helicopter operations by acting as a refueling station; an operation also known as “lily padding.”

“I’m really proud of my guys,” said Lehman. “We got the call late at night, right when we returned from an exercise and here we are again doing our thing. It’s a real testament to the all the Sailors in the U.S. Navy that we can get underway in such a short period. I’m proud to be part of this operation and I know we’ll do the best we can do and help everyone we can.”

McCain along with the destroyers USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) will assist Japanese authorities off the Miyagi Prefecture of Japan to provide at-sea search and rescue recovery operations. USS Mustin (DDG 89) departed Yokosuka, Japan, today and will also assist.