Pacific Partnership Arrives in Hawaii, Completes Final Phase of Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief Mission
LAE, Papua New Guinea (May. 28, 2011) The Pacific Partnership Band performs for a crowd of more than 3,000 people at Kilege Stadium during a community relations project. Pacific Partnership is a humanitarian assistance initiative, that promotes cooperation throughout the Pacific, which will visit five island nations this summer: Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the Federated States of Micronesia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell/Released)
Pacific Partnership Arrives in Hawaii
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii– The Pacific Partnership 2011 (PP11) mission arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7), July 22.

The arrival of the ship marks the end of the mission for the representatives from the last partner nations aboard the ship, Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Spain, the Pacific Partnership Band, and many of the military personnel assigned to Pacific Partnership.

“This departure is a bittersweet precursor to our arrival in San Diego, our final stop” said mission commander, Navy Capt. Jesse Wilson, Commander Destroyer Squadron 23.  “Over the course of four months, the men and women of the diverse countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and all branches of the U.S. military that make up the Pacific Partnership 2011 team have bonded to change many lives for the better in the Pacific region, and we are all looking forward to our return and reunion with loved ones.”

Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance initiative which provides medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and agricultural civic action programs throughout Southeast Asia and the South Pacific to promote interoperability between host nations and partner nations.  Sponsored by U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pacific Partnership promotes sustainable improvements in the quality of life for the citizens of host nations while improving the partner nations’ collective ability to respond to a natural disaster.

This year, Pacific Partnership completed mission ports in Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the Federated States of Micronesia.  During the course of those visits, the medical contingent treated 38,696 patients at medical and dental civic action projects, or MEDCAPs and DENCAPs.

“The MEDCAP is the basis for most HA/DR operations,” said Navy Capt. Steven Gaeble, officer in charge of the PP11 medical contingent.  “This is one of those areas where our host nations are going to seek out the opportunity to achieve interoperability and exchange information because there may be a more efficient way to treat malaria, dengue, or a host of other tropical illnesses that the partner nations don’t deal with on a regular basis.”

Optometry services were also popular, as they accounted for nearly 12,000 of the total patients seen at the MEDCAPs.

According to Ambassador Judith Fergin, the U.S. ambassador to Timor-Leste, the meaning of Pacific Partnership is expressed by “an elderly man in Iliomar, exclaiming ‘solok!’ (happy) when gazing through his first-ever pair of eyeglasses,” she wrote for the Pacific Partnership 2011 mission commander’s blog.

The DENCAPs treated more than 3,300 patients this year, and the team of dentists, hygienists and technicians from Australia, Canada, France, and the U.S. had the opportunity to work with local dental professionals and get more people treated than the host nations’ infrastructures would normally allow.

“When we arrive for our mission ports,” said Cmdr. Arthur Green, officer in charge of dental services for PP11, “we have the ability to treat as many patients in six days as the local doctors can treat in six months.  That’s largely because we’re dividing the workload for the local dentists by a factor of at least ten, considering the number of dental professionals we have working with us.”

Due to the subsistence farming that is a way of life in the five island nations, animals are not just pets.  In many cases, they are a source of food, security, and even work.  The PP11 veterinary team, a combination of volunteers from World Vets, Vets Without Borders, Australian Army, and U.S. Army, provided treatment to more than 800 animals at veterinary civic action projects (VETCAP).

“As a civilian veterinarian, I tend to work with people’s pets, while the military veterinarians tend to work with military working animals,” said Dr. Lydia Tong, a veterinarian volunteer from World Vets.  “However, working with Pacific Partnership, I’ve had the opportunity to provide assistance to people who rely on their animals for survival as well as companionship.”

While the MEDCAPs, DENCAPs and VETCAPs were visible examples of PP11’s joint and multinational mission, the engineering civic action projects also left lasting reminders of Pacific Partnership’s impact in the region, much like the buildings left behind by U.S. Navy Seabees and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from World War II.

“Working with Australian, New Zealand and host national engineers was a unique opportunity,” said Navy Lt. Michael Sardone, officer in charge of engineering services for PP11.  “Our Seabees arrived on station up to a month before the main body of the mission to build new school buildings and water catchment systems that the local populations will be able to use and maintain for generations.”

The PP11 engineering team worked on three community centers, 14 primary schools, one remote clinic, one Hospital, one evacuation center/gymnasium; one water distribution hub with three water catchment tanks, and one athletic field.

The PP11 team, which included the crew of the Cleveland, also delivered 257 pallets of donated materials like toys, crutches, wheelchairs, toiletries, and school supplies at 58 community service projects throughout the course of the mission.

 “The volunteers, military personnel, and even folks back home who have given what they have to people who need it half a world away, remind me that Pacific Partnership brings out the best in people, said Lt. Phillip Ridley, PP11 chaplain,  “and to think that this mission has been doing meaningful things for six years straight. It’s a testament to what nations and institutions can do for people when they work together.”

During the past six years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 250,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 15 countries.

Now that the operational portion of the mission is over, the PP11 team will stop in Hawaii for an opportunity to debrief, say farewell to some shipmates, and bring some new shipmates aboard for a Tiger Cruise to San Diego, giving some family and friends a taste of life aboard the U.S. Navy’s third oldest ship in the Fleet.  The deployment will end in San Diego, when Cleveland and its crew return to their home port.

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