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San Diego-based sailors flew dozens of sorties Tuesday to airlift supplies like food, water and blankets to the quake and tsunami victims in Japan. All the while, fleet commanders are monitoring winds to stay out of the direction of materials released from the Fukushima Power Plant.
Aircraft with the group also ran three sorties for coastal search and rescue Tuesday.
“Aircrews returning from missions ashore are being monitored carefully for contamination, and are conducting decontamination procedures as necessary when it is detected,” the U.S. 7th Fleet posted on a Facebook page for families and friends of sailors.
USS Tortuga sent two heavy-lift MH-53 helicopters to Tomakomai, Hokkaido north of Honshu to load about 300 Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel and 90 vehicles that will then be delivered to Ominato Air Base which is about 215 miles north of the most devastated area of Honshu.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is heading towards the northeastern coast of mainland Japan and expects to arrive on March 16 in support of Operation Tomodachi.
Sailors and Marines were recalled back to ship after arriving in Malaysia for a port visit when the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan.
Helicopters and C-130 aircraft of III Marine Expeditionary Force have already been sent to Japan with additional equipment to follow.
"Disaster relief efforts are always organized by civilian leadership, and the military's logistics capabilities - the ability to move supplies and people by air, ground and sea - makes us an ideal response team to support those efforts," said Lt. Col. William Arick, commanding officer, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU.
Low levels of radioactivity detected from USS George Washington in Yokosuka prompted an advisory from the Commander of Naval Forces Japan to limit outdoor activities as a precautionary measure. Even though they don’t expect the exposure to exceed federal limits, they are “securing external ventilation systems as much as practical” according to a fleet news update.
The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group with USS Chancellorsville, the destroyer USS Preble and the combat support ship USNS Bridge along with the guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur are positioned off the east coast of Honshu. An additional destroyer, USS Mustin, is at sea south of the disaster site.