Inori Flag By Dennis Boo Phillips
A total of 12,750 personnel, 20 ships, and 140 aircraft of U.S. 7th Fleet are continuing to participate in Operation Tomodachi. Today, utilizing 14 helicopters, the fleet delivered more than 47 tons of relief supplies bringing the total of aid delivered to Japan since the beginning of the crisis to 227 tons.
USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Tortuga (LSD 46) along with USS Essex (LHD 2) and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are off the coast near Hachinohe to assist humanitarian aid efforts along the affected northeastern coast to reach people in remote areas where the tsunami hit hardest. Ships of the Essex ARG conducted underway replenishment today with the USNS Matthew Perry.
Helicopters with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, flew two CH-46 helicopters from the USS Essex to deliver humanitarian aid supplies including blankets and fresh water to Miyako city. The pilots also conducted aerial surveys of 200 miles of the affected coastline between Miyako and Ofunato.
A P-3 from VP-4 deployed to Misawa conducted reconnaissance of coastal areas to continue the search for displaced people and to find new landing zones to service them.
USS George Washington got underway from Yokosuka today to assure the ship can sustain a state of readiness in the long term for the defense of Japan. The forward deployed carrier is scheduled to remain in the local waters off Japan. Moving USS George Washington is a precaution given the capabilities of the vessel and the complex nature of this disaster. USS Lassen also departed Yokosuka today.
The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group to include USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Mustin (89) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) along with USS Cowpens (CG-63) and USS Shiloh (CG-67) continued operations north of Sendai. Strike group helicopters carried 17 tons of supplies to 24 separate sites, and identified 16 additional sites where groups of people are isolated to be serviced with supplies in the coming days. Aircrews report that people on the ground are particularly interested in receiving shipments of gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), flagship for the United States Seventh Fleet, conducted a connected replenishment with USNS Pecos today in the vicinity of Nagasaki.
The commander, U.S. Pacific Command, directed that precautionary measures be taken due to the potential of future radiological exposures, including directing the distribution of potassium iodide (KI) tablets to military personnel and their families in Yokosuka and Atsugi. Personnel in Yokosuka and Atsugi will not actually take KI unless advised to do so by U.S. or Japanese authorities. Seventh Fleet personnel conducting disaster relief missions inside of 100 nautical miles from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant continue to take KI as a precautionary measure.
Update – 22 March 2011
The piers were completely empty in Yokosuka today, marking the first time in memory that not a single U.S. Navy ship was in port. The men and women of U.S. 7th Fleet were at sea focused on Operation Tomodachi, delivering relief to the people of northeast Honshu. A total of 19 ships, 140 aircraft and 19,703 Sailors and Marines of the U.S. 7th Fleet continued to conduct relief operations. To date the Navy has made 349 deliveries of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies to 84 landing sites.
In the last 12 hours, the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group to include USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Mustin (DDG 89) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) along with USS Cowpens (CG-63) and USS Shiloh (CG-67) along with USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Tortuga (LSD 46) along with USS Essex (LHD 2) delivered 23 tons of HADR supplies via various helicopters to the hard hit area of near Hachinohe.
Both the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Essex conducted replenishment today with the USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) to receive more HADR supplies, provisions and fuel.
Sailors and Marines aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Preble (DDG 88) and the ships from Destroyer Squadron 15 collected personal donations from the crews to supply displaced Japanese citizens with essential goods for survival. The items were transported to various landing zones throughout the Aomori Prefecture by crew members of embarked Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4. More than 100 blankets, 237 pants, 450 shirts, 311 jackets and sweaters, 748 pairs of socks, 154 towels, 57 pairs of shoes, 166 undergarments, 76 hats, 8 scarves, and 34 pairs of gloves were donated in just a few hours. Sailors even donated over 20 stuffed animals for children.
Commander Task Force 76 developed port clearance plans for the Hachinohe port. USNS Safeguard is enroute Hachinohe to assist the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force with clearing debris from the port.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), flagship for the United States Seventh Fleet, remains in the vicinity of Okinawa to conduct transfers of supplies and personnel to augment the staff.
USS George Washington is operating at sea near Shikoku. USS Lassen is proceeding towards Sasebo where it will continue its maintenance availability.
Families of Seventh Fleet Sailors are continuing to voluntarily depart Yokosuka and Atsugi as part of the Military Assisted Departure for Department of Defense personnel. U.S. Pacific Command leader Adm. Robert Willard addressed residents at a town hall meeting in Yokosuka this evening.