Eight U.S. Navy sailors assigned to amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7) serve onboard New Zealand ship HMNZS Canterbury (L 421) Apr. 16-28.
Cleveland and Canterbury are both participating in Pacific Partnership 2011, which is an annual humanitarian assistance mission promoting cooperation throughout the Pacific. Pacific Partnership grew out of the U.S. Navy’s response to the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia that devastated the region.
“Canterbury is very suited to this operation because she has amphibious sea-lift capabilities which allow us to get vehicles and personnel ashore where there is no port facility available. These capabilities have already been tested at Niuatoputapu in the aftermath of the Samoan tsunami in 2009,” said Cmdr. Jim Gilmour, Canterbury’s commanding officer in an interview for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).
The U.S. sailors were swapped with five New Zealand Sailors who will be working aboard Cleveland. Both groups will spend a week aboard their new ships.
“This is a great opportunity to improve partnership and diplomacy between Pacific Partnership nations. It also gives sailors from the U.S. And New Zealand the chance to see what life is like on each others ships,” said Capt. Jesse A. Wilson, Commander of Destroyer Squadron 23 and the mission commander of Pacific Partnership 2011.
Canterbury is off Niuatoputapu conducting dental, medical and construction work ashore with their own multi-national crew, including Australians, Canadians, French, and Swedes.
“Having the chance to be a part of another country’s navy and see how they operate is a great honor for me. I’m learning more about their culture, and the similarities and differences of our navies,” said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Abel Duran, a Sailor attached to Cleveland.
“This is the first time in 28 years that Americans have checked in aboard a New Zealand vessel, and we’re all excited to swap sea stories and share our culture with them,” said Leading Hand Logan McCrae, a sailor aboard Canterbury. “We are all working together to improve the quality of life for people in the region, so we all feel good about the mission.”
During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 210,000 people and completed more than 130 engineering projects in 13 countries.
NZDF has contributed its personnel and support for the Pacific Partnership mission every year since its inception in 2006.
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