USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (March 27, 2011) - Seventh Fleet forces continued support of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) in Operation Tomodachi.
USS Essex (LHD 2) Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) conducted an amphibious resupply of Oshima Island, off the coast of Kessennuma. The earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11 severed utilities and destroyed ferry service, leaving the island largely without basic utilities or any form of resupply capability. Essex launched two Landing Craft Units (LCUs) carrying a commercial electrical utility vehicle, a water supply vehicle, a fuel truck, three electrical generator vehicles, a 23-person work crew to conduct utility repairs and 15,000 lbs of relief supplies that included 900 gallons of bulk water, 288 cases of Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs), tarps for temporary shelter, as well as health and comfort packages with hygienic items, baby wipes, sunscreen, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste/toothbrush, shampoo, lotion, eye drops foot powder, razors, and tissue supplies.
Rear Adm. Hiroyuki Kasui, commander of Japan’s Communications Control Center 1 (CCC 1) arrived on USS Essex today via helicopter to review humanitarian assistance disaster relief (HADR) operations and to thank U.S Navy Sailors for their assistance in Japan’s time of need.
A Navy P-3 “Orion” aircraft assisted the mission in Oshima by scanning for obstructions in the water and coordinating with the LCUs during the transit from Kesenumma to Oshima. The aircraft also captured images of additional outlying islands and passed that information to the JSDF for review and support of those locations as needed.
USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) picked up 312 pallets of water from the port of Gwangyang, South Korea. The water will be moved to Sasebo for release to Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC) – Sasebo Detachment who will support ongoing HA/DR efforts.
The Flying Tigers of HMM-262 helicopter squadron aboard the USS Essex (LHD-2) moved one ton of relief supplies from Essex to JS Hyuga for further distribution by JMSDF personnel.
USNS Safeguard (ARS 50) with the embarked divers of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 and Underwater Construction Team 2, worked closely with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and commercial divers over the past three days to open the LNG pier and additional areas of the harbor for operations. This morning, those efforts paid off when a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) tanker docked at Hachinohe port to deliver much needed fuel which has been a critical need for the thousands of displaced personnel still living in shelters without electricity or heat. Safeguard also leveraged its side scan sonar to survey two million square meters of waterway.
Navy teams are working with the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) and local authorities to coordinate similar efforts in the ports of Miyako, Kamaishi and Ofunato and USNS Safeguard is scheduled to transit to Miyako tomorrow.
Two barges containing 500,000 gallons of fresh water from Commander, Facilities Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) are en route to the port of Onahana via transport to assist with the cooling of the crippled Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The first barge arrived this evening escorted by the JMSDF ship, JS Hiuchi and the second barge will arrive tomorrow afternoon escorted by the JS Amakusa. Onahana port is the final stop prior to a joint move to a staging area off the coast of the coast from the power plant. The water will be used in replacement of salt water in the cooling operations to lessen the corrosive impact of salt from the sea water which is currently being used for emergency cooling.
There were no requested helicopter deliveries of relief supplies today. Aircrews report that remaining groups of displaced or isolated persons are being served by Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel who are now able to reach them over land.
USS Preble (DDG 88) conducted replenishment at-sea (RAS) today with the USNS Pecos (T-AO 97) to onload additional fuel and ships stores depleted while supporting Operation Tomodachi.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), flagship for the United States Seventh Fleet, is on station in the Philippine Sea providing coordination for U.S. Navy efforts during the crisis.
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Yokosuka tomorrow.
Currently, 19 ships, 133 aircraft and 18,165 personnel of the Fleet are operating in support of Operation Tomodachi. Ships currently engaged include USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Cowpens (CG 63), USS Shiloh (CG 67), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USNS Pecos (T-AO 197), USS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9), USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10), USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7), USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50), USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204).
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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