APIA, Samoa - Samoan citizens, service members from U.S. and partner nations, and non-governmental organization volunteers kicked off Pacific Partnership 2013 with an opening ceremony, June 1.
Pacific Partnership is the largest disaster response-preparation mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. It will spend eight days in Samoa working with local officials, and sharing information in the fields of medicine, dentistry, veterinary, public health and climate change.
"This is an example of close collaboration between all nations involved in supporting humanitarian aid in the South Pacific," said French Ambassador Francis Etienne. "It is also an expression of solidarity to Samoa, a country which has been effected quite strongly by a cyclone in December 2012."
Working at the invitation of each host nation, U.S. military forces are joined by non-governmental organization volunteers and regional partners that include Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea to improve maritime security, conduct civil affairs and humanitarian training, and strengthen regional disaster response capabilities.
The arrival of Pacific Partnership 2013 brought a sense of unity to many who have been aiding Samoa in disaster preparedness and recovery.
"It's a team effort. It doesn't put all of the weight on one nation," said Angelina Velarde, a volunteer with the Peace Corps. "This country has suffered a lot of natural disasters. It's great to see that there's help and support from all over the world."
Working with Samoan government and professionals, Pacific Partnership members will share knowledge on key parts of infrastructure necessary to increasing disaster-response preparedness in the nation.
"All of these partners understand that we must place capability building at the center of our efforts by collectively working together with host nations desiring to improve first response when disaster strikes," U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said.
This year is the eighth iteration of Pacific Partnership. Born out of the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami that swept through parts of Southeast Asia, Pacific Partnership began as a military-led humanitarian response to one of the world's most catastrophic natural disasters.