News / Asia

US Military Plays Key Role in Post-Tsunami Clean-Up

A U.S. Marine (R) and members of the Japan Self Defense Force clear tsunami debris at an elementary school in Ishinomaki, northern Japan, April 3, 2011.
A U.S. Marine (R) and members of the Japan Self Defense Force clear tsunami debris at an elementary school in Ishinomaki, northern Japan, April 3, 2011.
Martyn Williams

As Japan faces the monumental task of cleaning up after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the role that troops and, particularly U.S. forces, are playing is in the forefront.

Three weeks after the devastating tsunami that destroyed thousands of homes in the small community of Ishinomaki, the Minato elementary school is still a mess.

A thick layer of mud covers the yard, smashed and crushed cars lie all around, and a mountain of debris from inside the school is waiting to be removed.

This day, that job falls upon the U.S. Marine Corps.

Captain Adan Maldonado is one of a small group of U.S. soldiers working to help the school take a further step towards recovery.

"We're in the third day of 'Operation Field Day', in which the Marines and soldiers of Task Force Fuji are coming out with heavy equipment to clean up the school yard at Minato elementary school," he says. "Yesterday, we came out with about 312 backpacks for ages of infant all the way up to 18 years of age and we had trinkets and clothing and candies, and those came from the girl scouts at Camp Zama."

The U.S. government pledged full support to Japan on the day of the disaster. Much of the subsequent work has fallen on the U.S. military, which has 38,000 personnel permanently stationed in Japan.

Video of US military efforts in Japan

Under the banner of "Operation Tomodachi," the Japanese word for friend, the U.S. military has brought in more than 260 tons of relief supplies, flown 160 aerial sorties, and searched over 5,000 square kilometers of ocean looking for survivors.

It has also cleared the tsunami-hit Sendai airport so relief supplies can be flown directly into the disaster region.

The U.S. military is working alongside the Japanese Self Defense Forces, as Captain Maldonado explains.

"Essentially, we're in a supporting role of the JGSDF, so anything they ask for help, we're right there with them to support as soon as possible. The people have been very receptive, lots of 'hi's, hellos, thank yous'," Maldonado says.

On Monday, the United States military got the biggest thank you yet, from Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

Minister Kitazawa said the Japanese government and people express their deep appreciation for the work of the United States military and Operation Tomodachi. He added he has never been more encouraged and proud that the United States is Japan's ally.

Japan's Self Defense Forces, under Kitazawa, have a presence of some 100,000 in the region. Ground Self Defense Force Colonel Shohei Abe says they are working on a variety of missions.

"Search and recovery of the dead bodies, life support like transporting food and water, and also debris removal in the public facility," says the colonel.

It is not all grim work. The military is also working to make the lives of evacuees just a little bit more bearable.

Across the river from the Ishinomaki elementary school, steam rises into the cold air from several large, green tents. These are shower units, installed by Japanese troops to help the city that is still largely without gas.

And from the mud and rubble of the Ishinomaki elementary school, an impromptu concert by the 5th band of the Ground Self Defense Forces brought work to a standstill at lunchtime Saturday.

Perhaps, just for a minute, it helped people to forget the disaster that has taken over their lives.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More