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Tortuga Assists Tokyo Residents in Disaster Relief Drill

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070902-03
Release Date: 9/2/2007 12:21:00 PM


By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon A. Myrick, USS Tortuga Public Affairs

TOKYO (NNS) -- USS Tortuga (LSD 46), in conjunction with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), assisted in evacuating Japanese citizens as part of Japan’s annual earthquake drill Sept. 1.

The seventh annual drill involving more than 600,000 people from across Japan was conducted both to achieve response preparedness and to commemorate the 84th anniversary of the 8.3-magnitude Great Kanto quake that struck Tokyo in 1923.

Earthquakes are a constant threat to Japan, which saw a magnitude-6.8 quake in central Niigata state in July, so preparedness is essential, according to Japanese officials.

As part of the drill, Tortuga launched a landing craft air cushion from its well deck to retrieve what would have been stranded commuters from Tokyo’s Kasai Kaihin Park. A total of 60 Japanese citizens were transported to Tortuga, where they were later brought to Yokosuka.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be able to take part in this exercise with the city of Tokyo,” said Tortuga Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Todd A. Lewis. “The Tortuga crew has trained very hard for this type of drill in the case this became a real-life scenario.”

Tortuga’s participation in the drill is evidence of the strong relationship and goodwill that exists between the United States and Japan, added Lewis.

At the request of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, this is the second year that the U.S. Navy has participated in this type of drill. USS Gary (FFG 51) participated in a similar drill last year in Tokyo.

“There is no doubt the crew of Tortuga gave the Japanese visitors a great demonstration of the capabilities U.S. ships provide in the case a disaster were to occur,” said Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, who was embarked aboard Tortuga for the relief drill. “Clearly an amphibious ship such as Tortuga is ideal for this exercise due to the multiple capabilities such as transportation, medical and survey support.”

Once aboard Tortuga, the evacuees were greeted by their tour guides and went through a series of check-in procedures such as medical, dental and other personal identification information.

“Everyone involved had a positive attitude which made the visitors feel welcome and at home,” said Yeoman 3rd Class (SW) Nyesha J Chappel, who was documenting census data for the drill participants. “This is the way we would want them to feel in a real-life situation.”

Tortuga has the ability to process, support and care for over 700 evacuees in any case needed and many more by utilizing the flight deck and well deck.

“I was surprised to see how fast we were able to reach the ship and get everyone checked in,” said Kitamura Nawa, a relief drill participant. “Everyone was very helpful and [assured] me if this were to happen, we would be taken care of.”

Disaster relief drills such as this allows U.S. Navy and the JMSDF to be ready to respond if and when called upon to do so.

“[We] look forward to participating in it again next year and in the future,” said Lewis. “As part of our strong relationship with Japan, we are prepared to serve them in any capacity, whether drill or real world.”

Tortuga is a dock landing ship serving under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. ESG 7/Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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