AT SEA, Pacific Ocean - Commander Task Force 70 Command Master Chief held a town hall discussion on the mess decks of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) to answer questions on the minds of many Sailors March 29.
Command Master Chief (SS) Joseph Farhney spoke to more than 60 Sailors during the town hall meeting and discussed the situation on the ground in Yokosuka and information about family members who voluntarily departed as part of Operation Pacific Passage.
"A big reason of my visit here is to provide clarification for the Sailors whose families have left Japan as part of the voluntary departure," said Fahrney, a Jacksonville, Fla., native. "After doing my part to help the families through this rough time, I decided it would be best for me to come out to the ships that are supporting the disaster relief operations and let the Sailors know what the Navy is doing to help their families through this stressful time."
Within 48 hours of the disaster, U.S. military assets were on the move to assist the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. During this time, a voluntary departure for designated dependants and Department of Defense civilians was authorized.
Despite difficulties surrounding the situation, the departures and following issues were quickly resolved due to the vigilance of administrative personnel, volunteers and senior leadership.
"Despite the fact that we're facing an unprecedented tragedy, I think we've learned a lot about how to handle situations like this," said Fahrney. "The situation could have been vastly different had it been a mandatory evacuation. Due to the in between nature of the situation it made things difficult at first, but it was because of the around-the-clock efforts that Sailors, family members, fleet and family support volunteers, Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society volunteers and ombudsmen that we were able to take control of the situation and start moving people."
The visit provided the crew a welcome voice who knew about the situations Sailors' families faced, how the whole situation was unfolding, and how it would affect the near future.
"It was a great opportunity for us to get solid information from someone who was in Yokosuka experiencing the same situations that our families were facing," said Chief Quartermaster (SW/SS) Trevor Foyston, from Seattle. "It always makes someone feel better to get information from someone that was on location facing the problems and that person being able to tell us 'this is what's going on.' He answered all the questions he could answer and put us more at ease."
Shiloh is currently underway supporting humanitarian assistance operations off the northeastern coast of Japan following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami that devastated the region, March 11.
More than 13,000 U.S. service members, along side their Japan Self-Defense Force counterparts, have moved more than 250 tons of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies to evacuation centers through out the area.