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130615-N-GI544-462 MU’A, Tonga (June 15, 2013) - Tongan dentist Afa Taulangovaka, left, Royal Australian Air Force Leading Aircraft Woman Kymberley Monck, center, and Cmdr. E.B. Dembinski work together to examine a local Tongan woman during a Pacific Partnership 2013 medical civic action project. Working at the invitation of each host nation, Pacific Partnership 2013 joins together Indo-Asia-Pacific nations with non-governmental and academic organizations to strengthen disaster response preparedness and build enduring relationships and cooperation in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Laurie Dexter/Released)
Pacific Partnership Mission in Tonga Comes To a Close 
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II  
NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga - Pacific Partnership 2013 concluded its 10-day mission in the Kingdom of Tonga, June 22.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Group Capt. Darryn Webb, Pacific Partnership 2013 deputy mission commander, said the missions preformed at the port were exceptionally successful.

"It went tremendously well. I think there was an enormous level of enthusiasm and desire from everybody involved to make sure we got the job done," said Webb. "I've visited many primary schools and the children don't have much," said Webb. "But that shows you that you don't need much in life and they have a strong sense of community, spirit and family."

While there, the mission treated 5,455 patients, evaluated 3,000 animals, conducted 25 donation events and completed eight engineering construction projects, including renovating schools, restrooms and water catchment systems all in the name of improving the collective ability to provide disaster relief assistance.

Additionally, medical, nursing and dental subject matter experts held conferences to exchange information with Tongan healthcare providers about various aspects of patient care.

"We reached out to a variety of Tongan organizations to share our expertise." Jennifer Villalta, team leader for the University of California, San Diego Pre-Dentistry Society. "We had almost 20 dentists, dental therapists and technicians lecturing about things from basic extractions to forensic dentistry."

One of unique aspects of the Tongan mission was the installation of two water catchment systems designed to mitigate any interruptions in the country's supply of fresh water.

"Purpose of the water systems is to ensure the ability of Tongans to retain water in case the city water goes out, gets interrupted by a natural disaster or is contaminated," said Kaela Mattson, an engineer with the University of California, San Diego. "If you have separate catchment systems that are able to contain a certain amount of water, it increases the likelihood that the community will be able to recover after a natural disaster."

Now in its eighth year, Pacific Partnership originated from the international response to the 2004 tsunami that swept through parts of Southeast Asia.

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 to strengthen disaster response preparedness around the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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