By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Steven Khor, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs
USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea - Pacific Partnership 2010 (PP-10) departed Palau July 30 marking the conclusion of a four-day endeavor to provide humanitarian and civic assistance ashore.
"It is hard for me to believe that just four days ago Pacific Partnership 2010 opened in Palau," said Commander, Joint Region Marianas, Rear Adm. Paul Bushong during the PP-10 closing ceremony. "Since then, many people; doctors, dentists, engineers, volunteers, patients, visitors a tremendous amount of medical supplies and medicines have crossed the pier or passed through the sky on our helicopters and taken their spot in the history of Pacific Partnership."
Sailors and Marines from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet and its flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) donated more than 1,000 man hours to 14 community service projects since arriving July 26, including two beach cleanups, renewing basketball and volleyball courts at five Palau schools, and restoration on the stairs and benches of the 66-year old Bloody Nose Ridge WWII memorial in Peleliu.
"It was really good. It boosted the morale of the Palauans and showed them that we care about their country," said Operations Specialist Seaman Chazz Brown. "Even small things like painting lines on a basketball court made a huge difference in the community."
Along with the community outreach, the combined medical and dental teams treated more than 1,900 patients across the three Palauan states of Koror, Peleliu and Angaur, and provided expert advice to local health care professionals on topics ranging from pre-natal care to health clinic management.
"It was an amazing opportunity to help people out with much needed medical and dental assistance," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jevon Jones. "I felt honored to be a part of the whole experience."
In Peleliu, engineering teams provided diagnostic water testing at source water sites and at distribution plants. Subject matter experts worked closely with local officials, instructing them on proper treatment procedures, and in his closing ceremony remarks, Bushong indicated that their results could lead to a potential engineering civic action program for next year.
In addition to providing humanitarian and civic assistance, Pacific Partnership 2010 also provided valuable opportunities for the Sailors to learn from their civilian counterparts. This experience helped ensure the U.S. military and partner nations were better prepared to respond to emergencies in the future.
"The whole experience helped the staff of the Blue Ridge have a better understanding of humanitarian assistance, and how to operate and manage emergency response. I feel that we now have a better understanding of how to deal with mass casualty situations," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Shannon Jackson.
Sailors also had a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich culture, music, cuisine, sports activities and diversity that Palau and its residents had to offer.
"I particularly enjoyed conversation with a local Palauan whose father was a retired Palauan Marine Corps Veteran from the Vietnam era," said Senior Chief Religious Program Specialist Q. M. Scipio.
The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors, Pacific Partnership 2010 was aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nation and partner nations. While this was Palau's first visit by Pacific Partnership, Capt. Rudy Lupton, Blue Ridge commanding officer and PP-10 Palau mission commander, said that much more will be gained through the visit than just providing assistance to those in need.
"Together, we represent an incredibly talented and diversified partnership, with the sole purpose of humanitarian and civic assistance," Lupton said. The U.S. Navy wants to create an opportunity to return to the Asian-Pacific region each year to continue to foster relationships, strengthen ties, and build lasting relationships."
Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
For more news from USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), visit www.navy.mil/local/lcc19/.