NORTHERN JAPAN (March 15, 2011) Japanese citizens move food and water out of an HH-60H Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Black Knights of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd)

USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (March 16, 2011) - The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group to include the cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88), and the combat support ship USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10) along with the guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Mustin (89) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) continue operations off the east coast of Honshu.

The cruiser USS Cowpens cancelled its scheduled return to Yokosuka and instead transited north to rendezvous with the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

USS Ronald Reagan conducted three helicopter sorties today delivering some seven tons of food and water. Helicopters from other ships in the strike group were also able to fly 12 total sorties, delivering more than eight tons of supplies including food, bottled water, milk, juice, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), fruits, clothing, medical supplies, and blankets. A total of 40 tons of aid has been delivered to date.

USS Tortuga (LSD 46), in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, had to suspend onload operations overnight due to visibility concerns but was able to resume around this morning. Throughout the day personnel loaded 93 vehicles and 273 Japan Ground Self Defense Force troops and equipment for delivery in Onimato tomorrow.

USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit entered the Sea of Japan. In the coming days they will take position off the coast of Sakata on the western coast of Honshu to begin conducting disaster response operations. The west coast affords greater access to undamaged ports and roads, fewer navigational hazards, and prevailing winds that are upwind of the Fukushima power plant. Once on station, one of the ARG/MEU’s primary missions will be to assist in the reopening of Sendai airport for operation.

USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), flagship for the United States Seventh Fleet, continued to steam north and will arrive in the vicinity of Okinawa tomorrow. It will remain there for a few days so that reserve and other augmenting personnel can embark via helicopter.

High-pressure water pumps were offloaded from USNS Safeguard in Yokosuka last night and delivered to Yokota Air Force Base for further transfer to the Government of Japan for employment at the Fukushima power plant. Four additional pumps were delivered from Sasebo this afternoon.

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