CHICAGO (CBS 2) – For members of the U.S. military, it is a mission that puts them off the coast of Japan at a perilous time. With nuclear power plants in trouble, they have to move to stay out of the way of radiation plumes. But they say they are happy to be there because they want to help. CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman spoke with a U.S. Naval Officer from Illinois who’s on board the USS Ronald Reagan.

One hundred miles off the north eastern coast of Japan is so far from home, but the USS Ronald Reagan is only a phone call away.

So, we reached out to Lt. Commander Kate Meadows of Morris, Illinois.

“It’s about nine o’clock in the morning here, and our helicopters are getting ready to go back in the air, and start the relief effort today,” said Meadows.

U.S. air crews are taking thousands of pounds of supplies – things like food, water and blankets—from the carrier to the tsunami-stricken people of Japan.

Meadows talked about some of the touching stories of the aid effort.

“When they go down and give supplies to the people of Japan, and they get hugs from them, thumbs up, smiling faces,” said Meadows.

The hardest part for responders, she says, is seeing the devastation. That includes the truly serious problem at coastal nuclear power plants. Explosions have elevated radiation levels.

“We are all safe and healthy,” said Meadows, “The levels are low. There’s no risk to anyone here.”

We asked a radiation/oncology professor at Northwestern if the families of military service people serving there should worry.

“I don’t have all the information of what the exposure was, but I find it hard to believe they were exposed to any radiation that posed a significant risk,” said Dr. William Small, Jr.

“We are constantly moving, and monitoring what’s happening with the plume,” said Meadows, “We’re constantly reacting.”

While they do that, the relief effort moves forward.

“It just makes it good that we can be a part of it, and help people in such great need,” said Meadows.

She confirms reports that some of their people underwent radiation de-contamination. But, once again, she says everyone is fine. She also says the USS Ronald Reagan and other ships will be off Japan’s coast until the work is done, or until they move to another mission.

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