PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - U.S. Pacific Fleet ships in the Western Pacific were converging on Japan to be in the best position to help those in areas damaged by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
They include the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), which departed Southern California waters on March 5 for a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Reagan is the flagship of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which includes USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and USS Preble (DDG 88). All three ships were headed to Honshu's east coast. It is too early to say what they will be tasked with once they arrive.
USS Essex (LHD 2), also forward deployed to Sasebo, had just arrived in Malaysia, but is getting ready to return to Japan to rendezvous with USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) off Tokyo to prepare for any humanitarian assistance/disaster relief duties.
USS Tortuga (LSD 46), a dock landing ship that carries helicopters and landing craft to support amphibious operations, left its forward deployed port of Sasebo in Southern Japan last evening to embark MH-53 heavy lift helicopters.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), the U.S. Seventh Fleet command ship, had arrived in Singapore yesterday for a port visit, but immediately changed its focus to loading humanitarian assistance/disaster relief equipment and preparing to return to Japan to provide support as directed.
"We obviously have huge sympathy for the people of Japan, and we are prepared to help them in any way we possibly can," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a statement. "It's obviously a very sophisticated country, but this is a huge disaster and we will do all, anything we are asked to do to help out."