By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fidel C. Hart, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) thanked more than a thousand 7th Fleet Sailors and Marines in Yokosuka Apr. 20 who participated in disaster relief operations off the coast of Japan.
The Honorable Ray Mabus expressed his gratitude to Sailors assigned 7th Fleet ships USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Cowpens (CG 63), USS Shiloh (CG 67), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), Stethem (DDG 63), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), and USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) who gathered at the Yokosuka waterfront for an all-hands call with SECNAV.
"To be as flexible as you were, to go from one mission to suddenly turn and do humanitarian assistance and disaster relief without costs, without changing any equipment, any people, changing any training and going from your normal day-to-day jobs without any hesitation and doing it so well, no other country can do that and no other service can do that like the people here," Mabus said.
Within hours of the earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck Japan March 11, much of the U.S. 7th Fleet was on the move, re positioning ships and aircraft to assist the Japanese Self Defense Force in their relief efforts.
The U.S. Navy brought 22 ships, 132 aircraft and more than 15,000 personnel to conduct missions as part of Operation Tomodachi.
Tomodachi is the Japanese word for 'friendship.'
In the days and weeks that followed, 7th Fleet forces delivered more than 260 tons of relief supplies to groups of isolated people ashore. They systematically mapped and cleared harbors from obstuctions to navigation, provided fuel and supplies to Japanese ships and aircraft, and searched more than 2,000 square miles of ocean in a concerted effort to find the remains of victims.
"There is no other force in the world other than the United States Navy and Marine Corps that could have done what you all did," Mabus said.
Mabus said Operation Tomodachi demonstrated the U.S. commitment to its longtime alliance with Japan.
"The partnership between America and Japan was made stronger because of what you did," Mabus said.
Following the all-hands call, Mabus took questions from the collection of Sailors and Marines and took the time to personally meet with many of them.