TONGATAPU, Tonga - The amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) arrived in Tonga, the second mission port of Pacific Partnership 2013, June 12.
Pacific Partnership, currently in its eighth iteration, is a mission that brings U.S. military forces, partner nation military forces, and non-governmental organization volunteers together to conduct disaster-preparedness activities.
While in Tonga, mission personnel are scheduled to conduct a variety of projects including school renovations, harbor surveys, medical and dental screenings, water catchment and filtration installations, basic veterinary care and training, educational health fairs and boating safety training.
New Zealand Air Force Group Captain Darryn Webb, the mission deputy commander, said the extensive planning and cooperation of individuals with different skills is what brings Pacific Partnership together.
"We're going to have to have complete collaboration in order to maximize the team skill sets," said Webb.
U.S. Army Capt. Linda Jones, the project lead for a nursing conference scheduled to take place at the Vaiola Hospital in Tonga, said that Tongan nursing students will be able to choose which topics Pacific Partnership medical staff will teach about, based on need and interest.
"Our main goal is to teach them to teach others," said Jones. "This can be such a great benefit to everyone involved, and I really hope for a wonderful exchange."
Jones said she thinks that skilled nurses are one of the most important elements in disaster relief efforts. After a disaster strikes, nurses are often the first line of care in the triage process.
Webb said that he has heard from the mission planning team on the ground that the people of Tonga can't wait to see the faces of Pacific Partnership.
"They are excited about the services, skills and support that we're going to bring," said Webb.
Pacific Partnership is the largest disaster-response preparation mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Pacific Partnership is also scheduled to visit the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and Solomon Islands.
The mission, which was born out of a response to the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, has now grown in scope and size. This year's partner nations include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.