MIYAKO, Japan --
As a group of 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters made their way along the northeast Japanese coast March 21, the destruction caused by the recent 9.0 earthquake and following tsunami became apparent.
Many houses had been reduced to rubble and most of those that were not simply piles of debris, were severely damaged. Only a few had only minor damage, and others seemed to defy gravity as they were held up by broken supports. Roads were washed away, made impassible by gaping holes through them, and there were large boats washed hundreds of feet inland.
Until March 21, Miyako had received relatively little aid because of its remoteness. Marines with the 31st MEU have started to change that.
During the recent humanitarian aid and disaster relief mission, Marines with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, delivered 800 gallons of water and 768 blankets to the Japanese Self-Defense Force to distribute throughout the area.
This was the first operation delivering much needed supplies to the Japanese affected by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami from the 31st MEU.
“It feels good to finally get to do what we are trained for,” said Capt. Cory J. Jobst, a CH-46E Sea Knight Helicopter Pilot with HMM-262 (Rein), 31st MEU, before the operation took place. “I am really looking forward to the chance to help out the Japanese people.”
While unloading the supplies from the helicopters, the gratefulness was easy to see on the faces of the Japanese.
“They had been waiting for awhile, so it was great to get in there and deliver the supplies,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy R. Harris, a crew chief on a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter with HMM-262 (Rein). “They really needed them. You could tell just from looking at the faces of the Japanese Self-Defense Force Soldiers they were glad to see us.”
The actions of the Marines with the 31st MEU do more then just improve the lives of those affected by the quake and tsunami; they help maintain the long-standing alliance between the U.S. and Japan.
“This shows the Japanese people how much good we are capable of,” said Harris. “It shows them Marines care, and are willing to lend a helping hand.” Navy and Marine Corps involvement in the relief mission is part of a larger U.S. government response, coordinated through the U.S. Department of State, aiding the government of Japan in their ongoing relief efforts.
As part of Operation Tomodachi, the 31st MEU is ready to support our long-time Japanese partners and to provide assistance when called upon.