PACIFIC OCEAN (March 29, 2011) Marines position humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies on the flight deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). Essex, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently operating off the coast of Kesennuma in northeastern Japan in support of Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey H. Kyhl)

USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (March 29, 2011) - Seventh Fleet forces continued support of Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) via Operation Tomodachi. With Sendai airport reopened for military flights, and with all known groups of isolated persons now being serviced from JSDF and local authorities ashore, 7th Fleet’s focus has shifted to harbor clearance and consolidation of remaining relief supplies to Sendai airport for distribution, while staying poised to respond as needed.

USNS Safeguard (ARS 50) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46), Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 and Underwater Construction Team 2 anchored in the port of Miyako today in preparation for port clearance operations. Tortuga launched a Landing Craft Unit (LCU) equipped with side scan sonar to survey the port. The side scan sonar provides detailed visuals of the harbor area to identify and prioritize dive sites for clearing. The port of Miyako was severely impacted by the tsunami of March 11 with commercial and pleasure craft sunk, concrete pier pilings washed ashore, and one complete pier destroyed. Navy teams are working with the JSDF and local authorities to coordinate similar efforts in the port of Oshima after completion of operations at Miyako.

Helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 moved 154 pallets of relief supplies from USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Germantown (LSD 42) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) to the Misawa, where they will moved via C-130 aircraft to Sendai. From there, U.S. and Japan Ground Self Defense Forces (JGSDF) will distribute the items to disaster areas as needed. The JGSDF has opened most roads in the disaster areas, and are able to move most goods to displaced persons via ground transportation. In a separate effort, USS Essex (LHD 2) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) also moved 3 pallets of hygienic supplies to the JS Hyuga (DDH 161) which included soap, towels, diapers and other assorted items.

A P-3 “Orion” aircraft from the Snapdragons of Patrol Squadron Four (VP-4) conducted a search and rescue flight off the Tohoku coast to search for debris or objects at sea that could interfere with shipping. The aircraft spotted two boats adrift, approx. 20 and 60 feet in length, adrift and immediately reported their positions to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and Japan Coast Guard so they could be retrieved.

The first of two U.S. Navy barges containing 500,000 gallons of fresh water from Commander, Facilities Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) was moved to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant today. The second will arrive tomorrow. Japanese authorities will use the fresh water to replace salt water currently in the reactors.

USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), flagship for the United States Seventh Fleet, is on station near Okinawa providing command and control for U.S. Navy efforts during the crisis. Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, has been designated as the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander for U.S. relief efforts in Operation Tomodachi.

Currently 17 ships, 132 aircraft and 13,747 personnel are actively engaged in operation Tomodachi. Those ships include USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50), USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Mustin (DDG 89), USS Cowpens (CG 63), USS Shiloh (CG 67), USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10), USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7), USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4).

Since Operation Tomodachi started, U.S. 7th Fleet forces have delivered more than 250 tons of relief supplies to survivors of the tsunami and earthquake, in support of Japan Self Defense Force efforts.

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