OSHIMA ISLAND, Japan – Sailors and Marines assigned to the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) continued to assist the residents of Oshima Island during "Operation Field Day," April 1.
Sailors assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1 and Beach Master Unit (BMU) 1 transported approximately 170 Sailors and Marines to Oshima to help the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) and local authorities clear debris from the harbor, schools and government buildings. The operation was the latest in a series of humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR) efforts conducted by the ARG in response to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1634 and 1651 transported Sailors and Marines, three 7-ton trucks, two high-mobility multipurpose vehicles, a 400-gallon M-149 potable water tank and a water purification unit.
Chief Boatswain’s Mate (SW) Mike Thurston, an LCU craftmaster, said helping the residents of the island recover from the disaster is an important step to helping them gain some semblance of normalcy in their lives.
“It’s important to help the victims of the tsunami and earthquake living in Oshima,” said Thurston. “We sent water and equipment today, so that should help out with the habitability.”
Though the units are putting in long working hours, Thurston said seeing progress made in the area makes it all worth the efforts.
“It makes me feel good that we are helping our host nation,” he said. “This mission was successful because we got to drop off the Marines and be able to help with the clean up and humanitarian assistance with the locals on the island.”
The first location slated for clean up is Uranohama harbor, the island's primary ferry harbor. Marines will also work with their JGSDF counterparts to test the safety of the island's drinking water.
Oshima Island, which is dependent upon ferry service from the mainland, has been largely isolated since March 11, when the tsunami washed its ferries ashore.
The Navy currently has 14 ships, 130 aircraft and 13,893 personnel operating in support of Operation Tomodachi. Since the operation started, U.S. 7th Fleet forces have delivered more than 260 tons of HADR supplies to survivors of the tsunami and earthquake, in support of JSDF efforts.