By Tetsuo Nakahara, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsFebruary 6, 2012
YOKOHAMA NORTH DOCK, Japan (Feb. 6, 2012) -- U.S. Army Soldiers assisted with a "sealift drill" during a large-scale Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief Exercise on Friday that was coordinated by the Japanese government and included participation from more than 10,000 people.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government organized the joint exercise, the focus of which was the reaction of emergency responders when dealing with a natural disaster.
Various organizations, including the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Japan, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the Japan Coast Guard, coordinated closely in their support of the exercise and helped to transport stranded commuters from the Tokyo Lumber Pier to a safe area.
Soldiers assigned to the 836th Transportation Battalion and 481st Transportation Company performed sealift operations using an U.S. Army Landing Craft Utility vessel, or LCU 2020, to carry the 53 passengers, including members of the national media, to Yokohama North Dock.
Evacuation shelters were set up on the open deck of the vessel to protect people from harsh weather. Soldiers gave a briefing and tour of the vessel to passengers to demonstrate to them the capabilities of the LCU, which include carrying up to 150 tons of supplies, personnel or equipment.
"Every opportunity we get as an Army to participate in an exercise with bilateral partners or any other partners throughout the Pacific is a fantastic training opportunity -- not only for us, but also for different agencies from the government of Japan that would respond to any type of scenario that is going on," said Lt. Col. Gregory Bunn, commander of the 836th Transportation Battalion at North Dock. "It demonstrates our capabilities, it demonstrates the existing capabilities of the government of Japan, and it allows us to see how we can best respond by combining our collective effort when we respond to any sort of humanitarian crisis."
The exercise also showed the capabilities and prompt readiness of U.S. Army reserves, Soldiers said. The crews from the U.S-based 481st Transportation Company arrived in Japan in less than 96 hours, and were ready to execute any sort of humanitarian assistance.
"The feedback we got from the passengers was great," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Anthony Moschella, the vessel master assigned to 481st. "They were happy with the comfort and safety provided by the ship. Within 16 hours of arrival we were able to get the vessel out and running, so it was a good demonstration of the flexibility of the reserves as an operational organization in the watercraft field."
After approximately 90 minutes of sailing from Tokyo to North Dock, the passengers were successfully offloaded from the vessel, loaded onto a bus and taken to the Yokohama train station.
Currently, 10 LCU 2000-series vessels at North dock are controlled by the Army Materiel Command's prepositioned stocks and are ready to respond to any emergency or contingency operation in Pacific region.
"We really appreciate the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army joining this disaster-relief exercise," said Akinori Muramatsu, senior director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Disaster Prevention Bureau. "We think that it is essential to have measures [in place] to support stranded commuters promptly after any type of disaster.
"This is sixth time for us to have a bilateral disaster-relief exercise that included a sealift coordinated between the Japanese government and U.S. military forces," added Muramastu. "We would like to make a strong effort to continue having training like this."