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    USS Ronald Reagan reflects on the 10-year anniversary of Operation Tomodachi

    USS Ronald Reagan

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom | Senior U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Army military members present Japan Defense...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jillian Grady 


    On March 11, 2011, the United States’ ally, Japan, suffered a magnitude 9.1 earthquake. It was the fourth most powerful in recorded history, creating a tsunami with waves towering 133 feet and traveling 435 miles per hour, six miles inland. The tsunami triggered meltdowns of three nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima facility. In the wake of devastation, all four branches of the United States Armed Forces launched humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in the form of Operation Tomodachi.

    Tomodachi, which translates to “friends,” was truly an all-hands effort on the part of the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) following a catastrophe the likes of which neither had previously witnessed. USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), then homeported in San Diego and deployed at the time just off the Korean Peninsula, was heavily involved with everything from refueling and reconnaissance to transportation of supplies, personnel and equipment.

    Now, a decade later, Ronald Reagan is forward-deployed to Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, operating continuously in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and returning periodically to Japan throughout the year. The distant memory of the 2011 tsunami on Japan’s eastern coastline remains a constant reminder of the importance of the partnership between the United States and Japan. Several crew members on the Ronald Reagan today remember the impact this humanitarian mission had and still has on the fleet, the region and the world.

    Capt. Matthew Ventimiglia, Ronald Reagan’s executive officer, addressed the crew via the ship’s 1MC announcement system on March 11, 2021, offering a moment of silence.

    “Ten years ago on this day, we strengthened our bond with our Japanese partners even more, and, today, we continue to strengthen our bond as we beat the current pandemic and participate in joint training and exercises, such as Keen Sword. Our friendship is unshakeable and, as we operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region, USS Ronald Reagan will continue to proudly serve alongside our Japanese allies,” said Ventimiglia.

    Many of Ronald Reagan’s current crewmembers served and assisted during Operation Tomodachi. Chief Hospital Corpsman Juliet Elangos, deployed aboard amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) as part of Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 7 in 2011, reflected on her team’s efforts during Operation Tomodachi.

    “We responded to Operation Tomodachi when the powerful earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeast coast of Japan in 2011,” said Elangos. “It was an opportunity to aid our partners in the region after a terrible natural disaster. There was a lot of destruction and devastation.”

    More than 24,000 U.S. service members, 189 aircraft and 24 ships from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps rendered aid during the operation. Ronald Reagan was instrumental in refueling JSDF ships, transporting U.S. Marines and JSDF troops to provide assistance ashore, and providing food, water and hygienic supplies to affected communities. In addition, Ronald Reagan’s airborne assets flew reconnaissance missions involving those displaced by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

    Chief Electrician’s Mate Raoul Simms, then attached to Assault Craft Unit 1 West Pacific Detachment, remembers providing ground support and assistance.

    “My unit conducted a joint effort between the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the JSDF. Landing craft utilities were used to transfer needed utility emergency equipment and supplies to Oshima Island to restore power,” said Simms. “We wanted to help however we could, because we saw firsthand the incredibly massive task the Japanese people had ahead of them. There was a great sense of camaraderie and friendship there that still exists today.”
    U.S. 7th Fleet spearheaded further assistance by flying 160 missions, delivering 260 tons of relief supplies and clearing the ports of Hachinohe, Miyako and Kesennuma. Clearing the ports and reopening them was critical to the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

    “I’ve been married to a Japanese national and stationed in Japan for almost eight years now, so it felt great to work and help out our partners in need, as we continue to do on Ronald Reagan,” said Senior Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate Daniel Georgalas. “Aiding the region during this time was a sight I will never forget, and that spirit of service continues to this day within our warship and crew.”

    Despite the devastation that occurred in the wake of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the bond between the U.S. and Japan remains strong and unwavering. Today, as the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the United States, as well as the collective maritime interests of its allies in the Indo-Pacific region. The ship and its crew continue to prove that presence matters, not only in the execution of national tasking abroad, but also in the strengthening of partnerships that have endured for decades.



    Date Taken: 03.17.2021
    Date Posted: 03.17.2021 02:50
    Story ID: 391558

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