SEA OF JAPAN (March 19, 2011) Members of a Navy radiological assistance team debark from a CH-53 Sea Stallion on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). Essex, USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are currently operating off the coast of Hachinohe in northeast Japan in support of Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Johnie Hickmon)

SEA OF JAPAN - Members of a radiological assistance team landed aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) to assist in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts March 19.

The team, consisting of 21 military and civilian personnel, comprise of personnel from Guam, Puget Sound, Wash., Norfolk, Va., and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Naval Ship Yards. Under the command of Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, the director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion and Deputy Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration's Naval Reactors, they will disperse to provide assistance to Essex, USS Harper’s Ferry (LSD 49), and USS Germantown (LSD 42). Their mission is to check for radiation on the aircraft and personnel of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) who go on the HADR missions to ensure they are not exposed to any radiation.

“We will be monitoring flight crews and any passengers that go out to the affected zones in Honshu,” said George Bowyer, a radiological physical science technician.

“We will be looking for any signs of radioactivity on the people and planes that return back to the ship from their missions,” said Machinist’s Mate 1st Class (SW) Wade Gerloff, a radiological control technician. “If we find any signs of radioactivity, we will remove and prevent the spread to others on the ship.” Among the equipment they brought aboard to help them perform their job are radiac survey meters, portable air samplers, and personal dosimetry. Each piece of equipment serves instrumental in helping the team perform their mission.

“The radiac survey meter monitors for radiation,” said Carlos Soto, a radiological control technician. “The portable air sampler takes samples and tests for radiation in the air. The personal dosimetry monitors for radiation a person may have been exposed to. These personal devices will be given to flight crews and random ship personnel. We use the data to see how much radiation each person may have been exposed to.”

While providing humanitarian assistance is the main objective of the crew, ensuring the safety of the men and women performing these humanitarian missions is the main objective of the radiological assessment control team.

“The safety of the crew is our first priority,” said Essex Commanding Officer David Fluker. “Without having a healthy crew in this environment, we can’t do our job.”

The Essex ARG, commanded by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 Capt. Bradley Lee, is comprised of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship Essex and the dock landing ships Harpers Ferry, Germantown, and USS Tortuga (LSD 46). Essex is currently off the coast of Japan to conduct HADR operations as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi.