USS ESSEX, AT SEA --
Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, departed Oshima Island, April 7, after completing the clean-up of Uranohama Port, and the surrounding areas, during Operation “Field Day”.
The Marines and Sailors spent about six days moving cars, destroyed houses, and other debris out of public areas and restoring functionality to the port.
Upon completing the clean-up, roads running through the port were open and being used by the residents, vast areas of the port had been cleared, hundreds of destroyed cars had been removed from yards and roads, and aid was steadily flowing in.
“In order for the residents to get their lives back together they needed the public areas and the port areas to be cleared so they can start fishing, operating ferry service back to the mainland and multiple other things,” said Col. Andrew MacMannis, the commanding officer of the 31st MEU. “What we were able do is clear all the debris out of the way so they can get their livelihoods back into focus, and try as best they can to get their lives back to normal.”
In addition to cleaning the port, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, flew in thousands of pounds of humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies, to several areas in desperate need of them.
The supplies consisted of food, water, blankets, diesel fuel, clothing, toys and toiletries.
In total, the 31st MEU delivered more than 65,500 pounds of supplies to the island.
As the Marines and Sailors worked, the Japanese civilians showed their appreciation by thanking them, and even helping them move debris.
As the operation came to an end, and the Marines and Sailors began boarding landing craft utilities to return to the USS Essex (LHD 2), more than 200 residents made their way to the port, and waved them off.
The residents waved Japanese and American flags, made a streamer made out of ribbons that were attached to the landing craft, and shook hands with the Marines as a way of thanking them for their help.
The 31st MEU’s involvement is part of the larger Operation Tomodachi, coordinated after a 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan causing widespread damage. The 31st MEU remains ready to support its Japanese partners and to provide assistance when called upon.