USA / Asien

USNS Byrd Crew Gears Up for Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship Mis­sion

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2009 — A four-month human­i­tar­i­an mis­sion to the South Pacif­ic led by the Navy’s U.S. Pacif­ic Fleet will begin this month as planned despite a switch in ships, the mis­sion com­man­der said.
In a deci­sion made to exer­cise an abun­dance of cau­tion, offi­cials chose to replace the Navy’s USS Dubuque with the Mil­i­tary Sealift Com­mand dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd for the Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship 2009 mis­sion after a small num­ber of sailors aboard Dubuque were diag­nosed with the H1N1 virus, Navy Capt. Andrew Cul­ly said in a “DoDLive” blog­gers round­table June 15.

Dubuque was one of the first, and remains one of the few ships on the West Coast to report H1N1,” Cul­ly said.

Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship will pro­vide engi­neer­ing sup­port and med­ical, den­tal and vet­eri­nary care in Samoa, Ton­ga, the Solomon Islands, Kiri­bati and the Mar­shall Islands.

Byrd was select­ed as a replace­ment plat­form because its capa­bil­i­ties fit the needs of the mis­sion, Cul­ly said. The switch required reduc­ing the med­ical staff from 180 to 50, but the “reduced staff won’t affect the mis­sion,” said Cul­ly, who helped to refo­cus the deploy­ment plan to max­i­mize its pub­lic health, den­tal, optom­e­try and vet­eri­nary ser­vices.

We’re excit­ed that even with the last-minute changes, we’ll still deliv­er what we promised to a lot of high-impact areas,” he added.

When mem­bers of the inter­na­tion­al groups that assist with the annu­al mis­sion learned about the plat­form change, they offered to fly direct­ly to the coun­tries where Byrd will stop at ports.

I’m very pleased that most of these orga­ni­za­tions stayed with us and are inti­mate­ly involved in the plan­ning, as well as the exe­cu­tion, of this mis­sion,” Cul­ly said.

Project Hope, the Lolo­ma Foun­da­tion, Inter­na­tion­al Aid, and the Shriners are among the groups that will par­tic­i­pate in Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship 2009.

The crew mem­bers aboard Byrd are eager to begin their mis­sion, Cul­ly said.

Help­ing oth­er nations in a deploy­ment like this is one of the most pro­fes­sion­al­ly and per­son­al­ly reward­ing career expe­ri­ences for all of us,” he said.

In addi­tion to med­ical aid, Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship will pro­vide engi­neer­ing sup­port. Engi­neers from New Zealand, Aus­tralia and Cana­da will refur­bish build­ings such as schools and clin­ics and will exe­cute water catch­ment projects.

Every project we have — whether refur­bish­ing the clin­ic [or] refur­bish­ing the school­house — we have tak­en great strides to increase … their water catch­ment to pro­vide fresh water,” Cul­ly said.

By Navy Lt. Jen­nifer Cragg
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice
(Navy Lt. Jen­nifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity’s emerg­ing media direc­torate.)