YOKOHAMA NORTH DOCK, Japan (Jan. 31, 2012) -- Soldiers performed maintenance checks and repairs on a U.S. Army watercraft here today to ensure the vessel will be ready for use in a Japanese government-led exercise scheduled to begin Feb. 3.

Soldiers assigned to the 836th Transportation Battalion and 481st Transportation Company ensured operational capability of a Landing Craft Utility 2020 vessel, known as an LCU, which will be used as part of a "sealift drill" during a Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief Exercise.

The large-scale joint exercise was coordinated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and will involve participation from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Japan, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the Japan Coast Guard.

Upon the arrival of the Soldiers Jan. 28, the crews immediately began preparing for the exercise. They first completed a vessel and hand-receipt inventory for the LCU. They then made checks to ensure total functionality of the craft, including inspecting the engine, hydraulic system and electric system. The Soldiers also tested the navigation equipment and safety gears, and prepared for dock and sea trials.

"We take care to make sure everything is in top condition, which the people who work at Yokohama North Dock helped by keeping this equipment in perfect shape," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Anthony Moschella, vessel master assigned to 481st Transportation Company, based in Mare Island, Calif.

"There is such a close tie between the U.S and Japan, that when many of us heard about the [March 11, 2011] earthquake and tsunami, we all wanted to rush out and come here to help and provide whatever assistance we could," added Moschella. "The Department of Defense wants to be able to demonstrate that we can use the assets located here to help the Japanese people."

The exercise scenario will involve evacuees from downtown Tokyo who will be transferred to the waterfront, where joint ship teams will be on standby to transfer them to a safe area. The LCU has the capacity to transport 20 evacuees safely to Yokohama North Dock.

One of the main purposes of the joint exercise is to demonstrate the capabilities of the LCU, said Moschella.

"We will demonstrate how many passengers the LCU can carry, how we can pick passengers up, and show the [craft's] unique abilities, such as going into shallow waters," said Moschella. "During a tsunami the water level will have a lot of debris, but we can push away through that debris to get to people and get them onboard so we can take them to safety."

The exercise will also take place at some major train stations in Tokyo, the area of which includes not only government offices, but also private businesses. There will be various simulations for both evacuation procedures and disaster information exchange.