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US Navy poised to help Japan earthquake relief effort

Japan earthquake relief efforts are underway, with one US Navy ship already loading humanitarian supplies. The Pentagon's first priority Friday, however, was to make sure all its personnel and equipment in Japan and the Pacific were safe.

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The US Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington and other ships take part in 'Keen Sword,' a joint US-Japan military exercise on Dec. 10. The Pentagon says none of its numerous assets in the Pacific were destroyed by the Japan earthquake.

Shigeki Miyajima/AP/File

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Despite large numbers of US troops and assets in Japan, there have been no reports of serious injury or death to US military personnel in the aftermath of a 8.9-magnitude earthquake there Friday morning, nor has there yet been any “significant damage” to ships or facilities, according to Pentagon officials.

Japan has long been one of the US military’s key base regions. There are some 38,000 US troops stationed in Japan, along with 43,000 US family members and roughly 3,000 Department of Defense civilians.

While the US Navy continues to assess the state of its fleet, it is also getting ships underway and clear of the rough coast in Hawaii and Seal Beach, San Diego to protect them from turbulent seas and possible tsunami in the wake of the earthquake that has devastated Japan, defense officials said Friday. “We’re moving things out from affected areas and getting them inland,” says Col. Dave Lapan, Pentagon spokesman.

This is expected to include submarines as well, which the Pentagon is often loath to discuss because they are equipped with strategic weapons and intelligence capabilities. In Guam, the mooring lines of two US navy submarines broke from the pier after the earthquake and had to be tugged back to port.

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