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Local Marines are among the first to deliver aid to the Japanese island of Oshima, a village that has been cutoff from the world until now.
About 170 Marines and Sailors from Camp Pendleton’s Company G, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived on Friday aboard the USS Essex, a Marine spokesperson said. The unit will help clear and clean-up debris at the island's main harbor to allow relief supplies to reach the island.
"The port itself its in a horseshoe and we are trying to get all the debris around the perimeter of that horseshoe, where the high watermark is, get all that clear in order to allow as much access into the port as possible," said Capt. Middendorf with the 31st MEU. "In order to make it self-sustainable, so they won't need our help here in the future."
The island is completely dependent on ferries for travel back and forth from the mainland. The island was cutoff from the mainland when the ferries were washed ashore by the tsunami.
For many of the sailors, this is their first opportunity to help with the relief and recovery effort in Japan.
"We found family photos, dishes, just a lot of personal belongings that are still intact in the rubble and it makes think about, you know, how you'd feel if it had happened to you or your family, LCpl Carlson said.
The unit will also help clear debris from local schools and government buildings.
"The Marines and Sailors with the 31st MEU are committed to helping out the people of Japan in any way possible," said Col. Andrew MacMannis, 31st MEU commanding officer. "We have the capability and equipment to move ashore and assist the people of Oshima, and we are proud to help the Japan Self Defense Forces begin the large task of getting the island back to normal."