USS Ronald Reagan, At Sea (NNS) -- Dignitaries and senior military leaders from Japan and the U.S. visited USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) April 4, to express appreciation to the crew for their support and dedication during Operation Tomodachi.
The Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa; the U.S. ambassador to Japan John Roos; Commander, Joint Support Force, Adm. Patrick Walsh; and 12 other distinguished guests flew to the Ronald Reagan, currently operating in the Western Pacific Ocean, to personally express their thanks.
"I want to express my heartfelt appreciation and admiration to each and every U.S. service member that came to the aid of the victims of the disaster," said Kitazawa. "Your warm help will be cherished and engrained in the hearts and souls of the Japanese people."
Operation Tomodachi, which is a Japanese word meaning "friend," is a joint U.S.-Japan mission to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) to the victims of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan March 11.
Upon their arrival, the distinguished visitors received a tour of the ship, a series of briefings with the Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 leadership, and held an all-hands call in the hangar bay with the crew.
Kitazawa, Roos and Walsh spoke to the commitment and duty of the Ronald Reagan and CVW 14 Sailors and Marines, and highlighted the strengthened bond between Japan and the U.S.
"It is that fabric of friendship between our two countries, represented by each one of you here today that brings our two countries together," said Roos. "Today we stand together - Japan and the U.S. - side by side on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan as friends who have worked together, day and night, to uplift this great country."
The ambassador's sentiments were echoed by Walsh in his remarks to the crew.
"To the Ronald Reagan, thank you; you make us all proud," Walsh said. "For the men and women who have participated in this operation, it is a memory that will last a lifetime."
Sailors and Marines who attended the all-hands call were humbled by the show of appreciation.
"It was wonderful they all took the time to come out here to thank us," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Jillian Yates. "Operation Tomodachi is still going on, and they still made the trip to say thank you. It definitely makes us feel appreciated."
The ships of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group were the first on the scene in Japan, and began providing HADR support immediately after arriving March 13.
The visit also represented the conclusion of Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group's role in Operation Tomodachi.
"It is my sincere wish that those of you who will depart from the relief efforts to assume a new mission, leave with a feeling of utmost pride for taking part in a noble cooperation like Operation Tomodachi," Kitazawa said. "The Japanese people will be your tomodachi forever."
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