HONIARA, Solomon Islands - Pacific Partnership 2013 concluded the Solomon Islands phase of the mission, Aug. 13.
The Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Canterbury completed the final phase of this year's mission after spending 16 days supporting engineering and medical projects through out the Solomon Islands. The amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) departed the mission Aug. 7 after supporting the mission for eight days.
While in Solomon Islands, Pacific Partnership held 15 disaster response events, 12 engineering projects, 11 medical and dental engagements, four veterinary engagements, 26 subject matter expert exchanges and 10 community service events on eight different islands spanning up to approximately 200 miles apart.
"We held health fairs, veterinary engagements, engineering capacities but most important this year was the subject matter expert exchanges," said U.S. Navy Capt. Wallace Lovely, Pacific Partnership 2013 mission commander. "We left a footprint ashore on each island we visited so that they'll be able to maintain the systems we built and properly diagnose patients."
Pacific Partnership engineers often worked alongside local residents, sometimes the residents were students of engineering but often they were people looking to lend a hand. Lovely added that emotion was high with everyone involved as projects got closer to completion and people could see the fruits of their labor coming together.
"The tears in the eyes from leaders in the communities as they we able to take part alongside our experts in engineering, medical and dental, and the pride they showed on behalf of their communities," said Lovely. "They said thanks at every opportunity. Every time they said thank you, I said thank you back because I thank them for the opportunity to enter their culture, villages and families. We get as much out of Pacific Partnership 2013 as any nation that we have visited."
HMNZS Canterbury stood as the flagship for Pacific Partnership in the mission's final phase. Members of the crew said it was a unique opportunity to improve the infrastructure of the Solomon Islands.
"It was great to be a part of something that I know will help improve the quality of people in this country's lives," said Royal New Zealand Navy Ordinary Combat Systems Specialist Loth Loth. "We got the rare opportunity to work with people from the U.S., Canada and other nations. I haven't been in the navy long but this is definitely something I won't forget."
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 joined by partner nations that include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.