VAVA’U, TONGA – The Pacific Partnership team pulled into port off the coast of Vava’u April 13, to begin the first phase of the 2011 mission with representatives from Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, and the United States.
The majority of the team arrived aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7), which is housing the command staff, the crew, representatives from non-government organizations (NGOs), Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen from each of the partner nations participating in Pacific Partnership 2011.
“The entire Pacific Partnership team is very excited to get our mission started,” said Capt. Jesse A. Wilson, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 and mission commander of Pacific Partnership 2011. “The servicemen and women and all of the volunteers from the NGOs are finally able to execute this mission after months of planning. All of us are eager to meet and work side by side with our friends in Tonga.”
New Zealand has multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury (L421) anchored off of Tonga as well, conducting operations simultaneously with Cleveland. Midway through the Tongan portion of Pacific Partnership, Wilson will shift his command and a portion of his staff to Canterbury in order to have a first-hand look at operations conducted from there.
The partner nations and NGOs of Pacific Partnership will engage in engineering, dental, medical and veterinary civil assistance projects and subject matter expert exchanges designed to increase interoperability between host nations and partner nations. The combined team of Pacific Partnership and host nations will also develop sustainable solutions for environmental and social challenges in the region.
“We are all going to gain from this experience, from seamen on the deckplates to the Tongans on the shore,” said Royal Australian Navy Cmdr. Ashley Papp, Commander Australian Contingent, Pacific Partnership 2011. “This mission is truly about partnership, understanding and mutual benefit. I am positive we will all learn valuable lessons from our experiences in Tonga.”
Pacific Partnership 2011 will deliver humanitarian and civic assistance, along with environmental sustainability missions from USS Cleveland to the nations of Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The Pacific Partnership mission was born out of the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami which devastated Indonesia. Following that mission, Pacific Partnership began in 2006 and has gone to many countries in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, treated 210,000 patients, and continued to enhance interoperability with partner nations.
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