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Update On USS Ronald Reagan And Operation Tomodachi

Credit: U.S. Navy photo

Above: OSHIMA, Japan (March 21, 2011) Lt. j.g. Jaden Risner, assigned to the Black Knights of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, speaks with a Japanese citizen during a humanitarian assistance mission. Ronald Reagan is operating off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi.


We'll hear an update on humanitarian efforts by the crew of the San Diego-based USS Ronald Reagan. The carrier is in Japan on a relief mission following the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

The USS Ronald Reagan made headlines last week, when it was revealed that radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant was detected on board. Prompt action was taken and the ship relocated to a safer location. But since that time, the San Diego-based aircraft carrier has resumed its mission to provide relief to earthquake survivors in Japan.


ENS Dave Carter, assistant public affairs officer for the USS Ronald Reagan

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We check in on the status of health care reform one year after Pres. Obama signed it into law. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, coming up on These Days, polls show parts of the affordable care law that have gone into effect are popular but the GOP majority in Congress say they are set on seeing it repealed. We will get an update on the status of the new law but first we will hear from the San Diego-based USS Ronald Reagan on a relief mission for survivors of the Japan earthquake and a discussion on the fast-moving events in Libya and other uprisings in the Middle East. That's all ahead this hour out These Days, first the news. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you are listening to These Days on KPBS. The USS Ronald Reagan made headlines last week when it was revealed that radiation from a damaged Fukushima nuclear plant was detected on board. Prompt action was taken and the ship relocated to a safe area but since that the San Diego-based aircraft carrier group has resumed its mission to provide relief to earthquake survivors in Japan. Joining us with more is my guest Dave Carter. He's assistant public affairs officer for the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group. Ens. Dave Carter, good morning.

ENS DAVE CARTER: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now as I understand it you are in the day of operation (inaudible) in Tomodachi and crewmembers of the USS Reagan has been doing many things to provide relief to the people affected by the Japanese earthquake. Can you give us an overview of the kind of support you are providing?

ENS DAVE CARTER: Absolutely. We just wrapped up our 11th day of the operations here. We've delivered about 290,000 pounds of supplies and clothing, things like diapers, food, medical supplies and things like that just to help some of the disaster areas.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There is a report that crewmembers actually donated personal items for the relief effort, is that true?

ENS DAVE CARTER: That's true. We held a donation drive onboard and we filled about 12 helicopters full of personal donated items. Items donated from Marines.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What progress had been made on the ground in this relief effort, can you give us a sense of that?

ENS DAVE CARTER: Absolutely. We've been landing at about 60 different landing sites where the constant relief we providing 290,000 pounds has made a difference because about 25 of the landing sites were taken off the list because they no longer needed any aid. They were being fully serviced by the Japanese self-defense (inaudible) force. So it's definitely made a difference so far.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now End. Carter as I said earlier in the operation there was a lot of concern about exposure to radiation to the crew. I think we all are pretty well aware of the fact that this was a low level of radiation, that was taken care of with some soap and water but how close are you to the Fukushima nuclear reactors?

ENS DAVE CARTER: We are 100 miles north of Sendai, probably 30 miles off the coast but like you said one of the luxuries that we have as a nuclear powered aircraft carrier is we have the ultrasensitive instrumentation and the expertise on board to kind of identify those types of conditions and as you mentioned, we moved out of the way and one of our first concerns is keeping our sailors and marines on board safe while continuing to do our operation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Glad you pointed that out Ens. Carter because yes, this is a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Have you been able to play any role in the efforts to stabilize the nuclear power plant at Fukushima?

ENS DAVE CARTER: Directly, no. You know most of the relief we've been providing is to the displaced citizens and the disaster zones as I mentioned before that we have been delivering aid to. As far as the plant we have been monitoring it, our meteorologist on board has been monitoring the winds and weather to make sure that we are able to fully conduct our operations in the relief even in the midst of the radioactivity in the atmosphere.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you told us that some of the areas that you've been delivering relief aid in to even no longer need your help. What do you see as the future of this mission in Japan?

ENS DAVE CARTER: We will be here until we are told to do something different, you know until all the aid that needs to be delivered is. It will be a continuation mission. We have over 20 ships operating here now in support of that in addition to 50 Japanese ships in the area. So it is really a combined effort that the Japanese are heading up and we are able to assist in every day when we are out there delivering stuff you do see the smiles and the kids faces as we are delivering stuffed animals and diapers and food and being embraced by the Japanese people and makes it totally worth it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What do the Japanese people need most, Ens. Carter?

ENS DAVE CARTER: It's a variety and varies from site to site. Some people need medicine, sometimes----

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ens. Carter, are you still with us? I think we may have lost him. I think he gave us a very good overview of the situation in Japan. I've been speaking with Ens. Dave Carter, assistant public affairs officer for the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group 7. We lost communication but he's telling us about the difference that the USS Ronald Reagan support group has made to helping people who are victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. You are listening to These Days on KPBS.

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