USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (March 28, 2011) - Seventh Fleet forces continued support of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) in Operation Tomodachi as Japan was hit by another 6.5-magnitude aftershock today.
Residents of Oshima, off the coast of Kessennuma, enjoyed their first full day of having electrical power today after the USS Essex (LHD2) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) combined efforts to restore to bring electrical utility trucks and other relief supplies to the island that had been isolated and without electricity for 16 days. Assault Craft Unit 1 faced challenges getting the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) ashore and carefully avoided floating debris in the water. Local residents erupted in cheer as power was restored to the island by 5 p.m. yesterday.
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 moved to the port of Miyako today in preparation for port clearance operations there. Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and commercial divers are coordinating with 7th Fleet units to assess the port and plan for clearance operations. Safeguard played a crucial role in clearance operations at the Port of Hachinohe by leveraging side scan sonar to survey 2 million square meters of waterway and removing multiple obstacles out of the waterway, such as vehicles, a small storage building, 20 ft. storage containers and 100 ton concrete blocks from washed away pier pilings. 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.
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) arrived in Yokosuka today after conducting checks for radioactive contamination. As with USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), which returned to Yokosuka on March 26, it surveyed surfaces around the ship and decontaminated impacted areas by washing with soap and water. All ships participating in Operation Tomodachi, including USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), conduct continuous surveys and clean contaminated spots as they are detected.
The second of two U.S. Navy barges containing 500,000 gallons of fresh water from Commander, Facilities Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) arrived at the port of Onahama in preparation for transport to the crippled Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant. JMSDF personnel are conducting additional safety training and familiarization of the barges and pumping equipment prior to movement to a staging area off the coast from the power plant. The water will be used to replace salt water in the reactor cooling system to lessen the corrosive impact of salt from the sea water still being used for emergency cooling.
USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) is en route Sasebo with 312 pallets of water it picked up from the port city of Gwangyang, Republic of Korea, yesterday. The water will be used by Sasebo detachment of the Fleet Industrial Supply Center to support ongoing HADR efforts.
There were no requested helicopter deliveries of relief supplies today. Helicopters from the Reagan strike group conducted four survey flights today and found no new sites of isolated persons. Aircrews report that remaining groups of displaced persons are being served by Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel who are now able to reach them over land.
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.
To date, 22 ships, 132 aircraft and 15,007 personnel have participated 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 Pecos (T-AO 197), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) and USNS Mathew Perry (T-AKE 9).
Since Operation Tomodachi started, U.S. 7th Fleet forces have delivered more than 240 tons of HA/DR supplies to survivors of the tsunami and earthquake, in support of Japan Self Defense Force efforts.
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