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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Gen. Eiji Kimizuka presents a letter to Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr. during a ceremony at the JGSDF Ground Staff Office in Tokyo, Japan, March 11. The letter, presented exactly one year after the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck mainland Japan, thanks U.S. service members, their families and the civilian support establishment for their friendship and support following the disaster. Kimizuka is the chief of staff of the JGSDF. Glueck is the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Photo by Courtesy of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force

Japanese forces thank Marines, their families, civilian organizations

23 Mar 2012 | Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock Marine Corps Installations Pacific

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Gen. Eiji Kimizuka presented a letter of appreciation to Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr. during a ceremony at the JGSDF Ground Staff Office March 11.

In the letter, presented on the one-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, Kimizuka expressed sincere gratitude for the impact American support had on the Japanese victims of the disaster.

Kimikuza described Marines, their families, and civilian organizations conducting relief operations as providing financial donations and volunteering their time.

“Many affected people regained smiles and courage to start recovery with your generous offer of donations and assistance as soon as you learned that those people were in great difficulty,” said Kimizuka in the letter.

Glueck received the correspondence, but emphasized how the letter was written to all who helped the Japanese following the disaster.

“This letter demonstrates the strong bonds with the Japan Self-Defense Force strengthened by our cooperative efforts during Operation Tomodachi,” said Glueck. “This letter should be taken as a personal declaration of gratitude to each and every service member and their families who helped aid our Japanese friends in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

“A tremendous effort took place on Okinawa and in the disaster-stricken regions of mainland Japan,” he added. “I want to echo Gen. Kimizuka’s remarks thanking all who gave freely of themselves to help our friends in their time of great need.”

U.S. forces in the Pacific launched relief efforts, known as Operation Tomodachi, the day after the disaster, sending forces that would eventually total 19,000 U.S. service members.

“I can remember being with my son on Okinawa when I found out I was leaving for mainland in less than four hours,” said Maj. Jeremy R. Orr, who was the executive officer of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 during Operation Tomodachi. HMM-265 was the first helicopter unit to arrive in mainland Japan.

“Seeing pictures about disasters and hearing about them on the news, I thought I had an idea of what I was about to walk into,” he added.

When Orr landed in the disaster zone, he could not believe the magnitude and extent of the destruction.

In the early days of the operation, III MEF and its subordinate units supported relief efforts by providing command and control, aviation and logistic assets and sending supplies, equipment and personnel to the disaster-stricken areas.

As relief efforts continued, service members of different units and branches of service in the Pacific worked with the JSDF in a variety of crucial missions, including providing clean water, food and supplies, tending to medical needs, setting up hygiene facilities, monitoring radiological activity, providing shelter, assisting in mass cleanup, clearing road ways, and providing emotional support.

“I remember we pushed out to a school where the students were really close to graduating and their school was destroyed,” said Sgt. Jason L. Carriker, a generator mechanic with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. “We spent 12 hours cleaning and doing everything we could. Being able to help these kids really opened my eyes to everyone who had been affected by the devastation.”

Members of the last major element of III MEF departed from mainland May 4, 2011, to return home. Throughout the remainder of the year, relief continued with the transportation of supplies as well as visits to see the progress.

While the letter of appreciation from Kimizuka was addressed to Glueck, it encompassed everyone involved. Operation Tomodachi and the relief efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake left all involved with the realization that the relationship between the Japanese and American people is not just a military alliance, but a friendship.