Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa thanked sailors and Marines aboard the USS Ronald Reagan on Monday for their help after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Navy reported.
The Coronado-based aircraft carrier and several ships from its Carrier Strike Group, including the cruiser USS Chancellorsville and destroyer USS Preble, were headed for routine deployment in the Western Pacific and Arabian Sea, when they were rerouted to waters off the coast of Japan to aid in recovery efforts.
Other U.S. ships and military units have also lent their services during Operation Tomodachi, which means “friendship” in Japanese.
“To all U.S. military members, on behalf of the people of Japan, I sincerely express my deep appreciation for the tremendous support provided by the U.S. military, the U.S. government and the American people at a time of unprecedented crisis in Japan,” Kitazawa said in a speech given from the carrier’s flight deck.
To date, U.S. aircraft have flown 450 missions for recovery, transport and
distribution of supplies, according to the Navy.
In addition, many sailors on several ships have donated personal items to those in need.
“The entire Japanese people are deeply moved and encouraged by scenes
of U.S. military members working hard in support of relief efforts,” Kitazawa
added. “Those in Japan and the United States are true tomodachi—they share
basic values such as democracy and respect for human rights.”
The defense minister also thanked the crew of the Preble via radio.
The USS Ronald Reagan and the Reagan Carrier Strike Group deployed from Coronado on Feb. 2.
City News Service contributed to this report.