by Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
3/11/2011 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The United States is prepared to help Japan deal with the aftermath of the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck today “in any way we possibly can,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in Bahrain.
“I’ve been kept informed all day long about the tsunami in Japan, the earthquake and tsunami,” said Secretary Gates, who is on a trip through the Middle East and Europe. “As best we can tell, all of our people are OK, (and) our ships and military facilities are all in pretty good shape.”
The secretary said that although Japan is a very sophisticated country, “this is a huge disaster and we will do … anything we are asked to do to help out.”
Secretary Gates joined President Barack Obama, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other U.S. leaders in offering condolences and aid to the Japanese people for the massive disaster that struck near the coast of Honshu.
“Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister (Naoto) Kan,” President Obama said during a news conference here. “On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.”
Admiral Mullen offered condolences to the beleaguered nation.
“Thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan as they deal with the aftermath of this powerful earthquake,” he said on his Twitter feed. “Ready to help in any way we can.”
Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said the United States has a large number of military assets that include personnel, ships and aircraft on mainland Japan, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, and throughout the Pacific region.
He said 38,000 military personnel, 43,000 family members and 5,000 Defense Department civilian employees are assigned to U.S. Forces Japan.
“All of the different forces in Japan and in the surrounding area are going through 100 percent accountability checks,” Colonel Lapan said, adding that there are no reports of deaths or serious injuries among military personnel and no significant damage to ships, aircraft or facilities.
President Obama received a briefing this morning in the Oval Office on the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami warnings across the Pacific from several senior U.S. government officials.
“We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan and another is on its way,” he said at the news conference. “We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed.”
U.S. embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location, the president added, and the State Department is working to account for and assist American citizens who are in the country.
Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and initial waves from the tsunami have reached Guam and other U.S. territories, Alaska and Hawaii, and other areas along the West Coast.
“Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far,” President Obama said, “but we’re taking this very seriously and we are monitoring the situation very closely.”
On his Twitter feed this morning, Noriyuki Shikata, the deputy cabinet secretary for public relations and director of global communications at the Japanese prime minister’s office, said the Japanese government requested U.S. forces in Japan to support efforts to rescue people and to provide oil and medical aid via the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, adding his thanks to the U.S. government.
Americans in affected areas who need to contact the State Department can do so by e-mail to [email protected] or [email protected] The State Department also is posting the latest travel information for the affected areas on the World Wide Web and via Twitter.