TARAWA, Republic of Kiribati -- The Royal New Zealand Navy diving support vessel HMNZS Manawanui (A09) concluded its mission with Pacific Partnership 2013, July 21.
During its involvement, Manawanui and embarked personnel cleared more than 2,100 rounds of unexploded ordnance in the Solomon Islands and the Republic of Kiribati that remained behind from the battles of World War II.
"The types of ordnance ranged from basic hand grenades to 1,000 pound bombs," said Royal New Zealand Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kerry Driver, Manawanui's commanding officer. "Some were underwater, but most of them were on some of the outlying islands."
Residents of island chains in Kiribati and the Solomon Islands sometimes fall victim to unexploded ordnance and can lose limbs or their lives, said Driver.
"We're creating a safer environment for the local population," said Driver. "Some of these explosive remnants of war are still dangerous and still explode every once in a while. We're here to provide skills and tools to dispose of this ordnance."
New Zealand Navy Midshipman David Dessoulavy said the opportunity to help people was gratifying and he learned a lot along the way.
"There are a lot of locals out there that are quite literally living on explosive mounds," said Dessoulavy. "It's rewarding for us to finally clear up the mess that was made a long time ago."
A team of seven U.S. Navy explosive ordnance technicians joined Manawanui's 23-person crew to aid in their efforts.
"It's been an absolute treat working with them," said Dessoulavy. "It's been great having a different perspective from a different navy on how to do the job for the past two months."
Conducted annually since 2006, Pacific Partnership is the largest disaster response-preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Working at the invitation of each host nation, Pacific Partnership is conducted by partner nations that include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States.