– The Honorable Raymond Greene, U.S. Consulate General of Okinawa, Japan Ground Self Defense Force Maj. Gen. Hideki Agario, director general of Okinawa, and other Japanese dignitaries visited the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), Oct. 8.
The purpose of their visit to the ARG was to better understand the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) capabilities of the ships and embarked Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
It’s a great opportunity to show some of the capabilities that the Essex and ARG present,” said Greene.“We are very interested in how the 31st MEU and the Navy can help if something should happen to Okinawa - what kind of capabilities they could provide and support to the local community.”
Ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group returned in April from assisting citizens of Japan after a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami struck the nation. During the disaster relief mission, Operation Tomodachi, Sailors and Marines moved 80 tons of supplies ashore in one day and assisted in clearing debris from Oshima Island. The amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) assisted the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force by transporting ground vehicles to various relief locations.
After the March 11 disasters, the Japanese government had asked all the prefectures in Japan to update their disaster plans, and seeing how Okinawa is a big island prone to typhoons and tsunamis, we are very concerned about our own planning,” said Greene.
“We have been talking to the local government about increasing our cooperation between the U.S. military and Okinawa.”
This visit gave the consulate general and Japanese dignitaries the opportunity to share ideas with Navy and Marine Corps leadership about how the Okinawa prefecture can work with the military during an HADR operation.
"It’s a win-win for both sides and the [Japan-U.S.] alliance if we can deepen these relationships between the military and the local community,” said Greene.
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group consists of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) which reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Rear. Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.