PACIFIC OCEAN - Japanese liaison officers were brought aboard USS Essex (LHD 2), to help with the planning of humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations conducted by the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), during Operation Tomodachi March 28.
Translation between the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) headquarters and service members with the 31st MEU, is vital to ensure that supplies get inland and to the people in need.
“We have a team of three liaison officers aboard USS Essex,” said Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Capt. Masanori Ide, one of the liaison officers. “Anytime the 31st MEU sends a request for information to the JSDF headquarters in Sendai Japan, it goes through us. We translate and ensure they get what they need.”
“When I arrived here, I found that the 31st MEU was focusing on Oshima Island,” said Ide.
“There were so many things that needed to happen, and it was my job to coordinate them. I sent a lot of information to the JDSF headquarters that was needed to make the operation happen.”
The operation in Oshima was significant because before the 31st MEU arrived, the isolated community was only being supplied via airlifts. The 31st MEU was the only unit in the area that had the capability and manpower that was needed to improve the situation there, added Ide.
“Because of the efforts of the MEU, we got power trucks to the island,” said Ide. “No one else could do that. The entire island had been without power for 16 days, and the MEU got it turned back on in one night, which gave the people light and heat.”
That vital link between JDSF headquarters and service members of the 31st MEU, will continue to ensure operational success.
“I will do anything I need to, and do my best to help the MEU,” said Ide. “Because it helps the victims, and helps the MEU help us. I really appreciate the U.S. alliance and friendship. I am moved that all the people I am working with here are dedicating themselves to helping out, not because they were ordered to, but because they care as friends.”
Having the Japanese liaison officers assistance is a valuable asset that helps make the MEU’s contribution even greater.
“Since the Japanese liaison officers from Japan have come aboard USS Essex, our ability to plan and execute tasked missions, as well as prepare for potential missions has improved tremendously,” said Lt. Col. William Arick, commanding officer for Combat Logistics Battalion, 31st MEU. “Their presence has been instrumental in our mutual understanding of each other's capabilities.”
Arick also added how fortunate he was to have the opportunity to work alongside them.
“Personally, it has been a great honor and privilege to serve side-by-side with our Japanese partners,” Arick said. “Our liaison officer partners' enthusiasm, work ethic, and dedication to help their country is a testament to the Japanese military and people and is humbling to witness.”
The 31st MEU’s involvement is part of a larger U.S. government response, after a 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan causing widespread damage. The 31st MEU is ready to support our Japanese partners and to provide assistance when called upon.