U.S. Marines Assist After Disaster Strikes Japan

Marine forces in Japan are delivering food, water and other supplies to assist in disaster-relief efforts following the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region Friday.

The first personnel and equipment to arrive include command-and-control and logistics assets, plus CH-46E transport helicopters and KC-130J cargo aircraft, officials said in a news release. Those assets have moved from Marine facilities in Okinawa and are now operating out of mainland Japan.

They will be joined shortly by elements of the Japan-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, who are returning from exercises in Cambodia.

Aviation assets from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma were quickly dispatched to areas on the mainland where the need was greatest, Lt. Col. Karl C. Rohr, a spokesman for III Marine Expeditionary Force, said in a news release.“

In a matter of hours,” Rohr said, “supplies, gear and manpower began flowing into mainland Japan with more to follow.

CH-46 Sea Knights from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 were among the first assets to leave Futenma. They’re now operating out of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, according to the news release.

The helicopters “provide commanders with the greatest flexibility of options,” said Lt. Col. Damien M. Marsh, HMM-265’s commander. They can handle the “full spectrum of rescue operations,” including rescue ashore, casualty transfer, and troop and cargo transport, he said, calling the 46s “extremely maneuverable, versatile and environmentally friendly in urban areas.”

The KC-130J Super Hercules are assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152.

Additional aircraft and supplies will continue to be moved during the next several days, officials said.

Elements of the 31st MEU, embarked aboard the amphibious ships Essex, Harpers Ferry and Germantown, are currently transiting toward Japan, according to the unit’s Facebook page. The MEU includes Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.; HMM-262, another CH-46 squadron based at Futenma; Marine Attack Squadron 211, an AV-8B Harrier squadron out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.; and Combat Logistics Battalion 31.

Based at Yokota Air Base, Japan, U.S. Forces Japan is the lead military command for coordinating all humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief efforts on the mainland. It’s been dubbed Operation Tomodachi, which means “friendship” in Japanese, officials said.

What is being called Japan’s largest earthquake in 100 years struck the country’s main island Friday afternoon, but the effect on Marine installations was minimal, with no reports of any Marine casualties, officials at the Pentagon told Marine Corps Times.

All major Marine installations are located on the southern island of Okinawa, hundreds of miles away from the epicenter of the 8.9 magnitude quake that originated off the coast of northern Japan. Base residents were evacuated from low-lying areas at Camp Foster, Camp Lester and Camp Kinser as a precautionary measure.

Hundreds on mainland Japan have been confirmed killed as the quake triggered fires, flooding, and building collapses. The initial quake set off a 23-foot tsunami that devastated portions of Japan’s coast and set of hours of aftershocks, some of which reached a 6.0-magnitude. The death toll is expected to rise. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Kobe, Japan, in 1996 killed 6,400 people.

story by: Marine Corps Times

photo courtesy of: USMC

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