NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN (March 28, 2011) The rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) flies Japanese and U.S. flags from the ship's yard arm while anchored in the mouth to the port of Miyako in northeastern Japan while supporting Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Josh Huebner)

USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (March 30, 2011) - Seventh Fleet forces continue support of Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) in Operation Tomodachi. With Sendai airport now open for military flights – and soon to be opened for commercial flights as well -- 7th Fleet’s focus has shifted to harbor clearance, consolidating relief supplies at airfields ashore, and preparing to assist with clean-up of debris.

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 conducted additional surveys in preparation for port clearance operations at the port of Miyako. Visual surveys show extensive damage including commercial and pleasure craft sunk, concrete pier supports washed ashore and a permanent pier destroyed. Tortuga launched a Landing Craft Unit (LCU) equipped with side scan sonar to survey additional areas of the port. The side scan sonar provides detailed visuals of the harbor bottom to identify and prioritize dive sites for clearing. During today’s survey, the dive team discovered the remains of a victim of the tsunami of March 11. The Navy team immediately communicated the discovery to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, whose divers retrieved them.

Sailors and Marines from the USS Essex amphibious ready group and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are planning for Operation “Field Day”, a clearing and clean up mission on the remote island of Oshima off the coast of Kessennuma. In conjunction with the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, the effort will include clearing the port, and clearing debris from local schools and government buildings. The island is dependent upon ferry service to and from the mainland, is the primary method for travel to/from the island and clearing the port allows this vital lifeline to resume. Clearing and opening of schools and government buildings is a significant step towards restoring the island to normal.

Helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 moved an additional 13 pallets of relief supplies from USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Germantown (LSD 42) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) to Misawa, where they will moved via C-130 aircraft to Sendai. From there, JGSDF and civilian relief authorities will able to distribute the items to disaster areas as needed. The JGSDF has opened most roads in the disaster areas, and are able to move most goods to displaced persons via ground transportation.

USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) arrived at the port of Yokosuka today. The Rappahannock transported 312 pallets of water it picked up from the port city of Gwangyang, South Korea. The water will be used by Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC) to support ongoing relief efforts. USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7) arrived in Sasebo. Both Pecos and Carl Brashear are taking on fuel and ships stores prior to returning to the fleet to support relief operations.

A P-3 “Orion” aircraft from the Skinny Dragons of Patrol Squadron Four (VP-4) conducted a search and rescue flight down the east coast of Japan to search for debris or objects at sea that could interfere with shipping. The P-3 returned to Kadena Air Force Base (AFB) upon completion of the mission and will stage from there for continued relief efforts.

The first of two U.S. Navy barges containing 500,000 gallons of fresh water from Commander, Facilities Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) was moved to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant today. The second will arrive tomorrow. Japanese authorities will use the fresh water to replace salt water currently in some of the reactors.

USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10) conducted resupply at sea (RAS) activities with USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Mustin (DDG 89), USS Cowpens (CG 63), and USS Shiloh (CG 67), ships of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Group (CSG), supplying fuel and additional supplies. Most of the relief supplies on these ships have been moved ashore to airfields in Misawa or Sendai where the JSDF can better access them to deliver to people in need.

Currently 16 ships, 130 aircraft and 13,076 personnel are actively engaged 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), USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4).

Since Operation Tomodachi started, U.S. 7th Fleet forces have delivered more than 250 tons of relief supplies to survivors of the tsunami and earthquake in support of Japan Self Defense Force efforts.

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