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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid