Thirty-eight Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen have embarked on a 16-week humanitarian aid mission, sponsored by the Commander US Pacific Fleet.
Pacific Partnership is an annual mission, which started in 2005 in response to the Indonesian tsunami crisis.
Commander of the Australian Contingent, Commander Ashley Papp of the Royal Australian Navy, says it aims to develop the ability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to operate in close cooperation with its military colleagues from the US, New Zealand and other participants, and to improve the way of life for the country’s Pacific neighbours.
„Working closely with our friends and allies in this way in times of peace helps us to refine our procedures, understanding and cooperation, so that in times of crises we have already trained on how to deliver the right support, at the right time, in the right way when needed,“ Commander Papp said.
The Australian contingent departed Hawaii on board USS Cleveland, with Tonga their first port of call.
The contingent includes nurses, dentists, medical and dental technicians working with local medical agencies to provide support to community medical and dental projects.
There are also 12 engineers from 6 Engineering Support Regiment (17 Construction Squadron) who, during the next four months will be working with US ‘Sea Bees’ (Construction Battalion) and local engineers on basic construction tasks including construction of steel and timber frames for houses, installing various sized water tanks and filters, and other reconstruction activities.
Also joining the group is veterinarian, Captain Jonathan Lee, who is a reserve infantry officer with the 51st Far North Queensland Regiment.
„I think it is an excellent opportunity to operate with allied nations including the USA and New Zealand to enhance joint operability as well as to observe first-hand the culture and agricultural practices in Pacific countries that I have not yet visited,“ Captain Lee said.
Some of the Pacific Partnership 11 team have participated in the mission in previous years.
„Pacific Partnership allows a large number of people to have life-changing medical services which otherwise wouldn’t have been available to them,“ said surgical nurse Lieutenant Steven Line, Royal Australian Navy Reserve. When the opportunity came up to deploy again I jumped at it.”
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