By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Micah Blechne, Logistics Group Western Pacific — (DoD News) — Feb. 22, 2018
The hospital ship USNS Mercy steams in the Pacific Ocean after completing Pacific Partnership 2016 in the Indo-Pacific region, Sept. 12, 2016. The USNS Mercy will also participate in 2018’s Pacific Partnership mission. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Hank Gettys.
This annual maritime operation will help improve disaster response preparedness, resilience and capacity while enhancing partnerships with participating nations and civilian humanitarian organizations throughout the Indo-Pacific region, officials said.
Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific region. This year's mission will be led by Destroyer Squadron 31 and staff embarked on the hospital ship USNS Mercy and the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River, and will include more than 800 military and civilian personnel from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Peru and Japan.
Deepening Ties With Regional Partners
"Through Pacific Partnership we are deepening integral ties with our allies and partners across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," said Navy Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander of Task Force 73, the executive agent for Pacific Partnership 2018.
"The challenges we face with natural and man-made disasters do not respect borders or national sovereignty,” Gabrielson added. “This dynamic mission enables many nations and subject-matter experts to come together to pursue solutions to complex problems while enhancing preparations for disaster emergencies that reduce the severity of their impact. The foundation of trust created through Pacific Partnership engagement helps foster a cooperative environment that encourages collaborative approaches to improving the lives and conditions for the people of this region and beyond."
USNS Mercy will make mission stops in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Vietnam, while USNS Fall River will visit Yap, Palau, Malaysia and Thailand. Medical, dental, civil engineering and veterinary teams will partner with each host nation to conduct civic-action projects, community health exchanges, medical symposiums and disaster response training activities.
Engagements With Communities
Additional community relations engagements will occur in each mission stop to enhance relationships and camaraderie with citizens of the host nations. Following the mission stops, Mercy will also visit Japan during its return transit across the Pacific Ocean.
Engagements between Pacific Partnership 2018 participants and host nations are intended to improve capacity, enhance regional partnerships, and increase multilateral cooperation for preparedness.
“Our staff and team have come together to form a dynamic team of professionals, and we are ready to execute this mission and engage with our partners throughout the Indo-Pacific,” said Navy Capt. David Bretz, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 31. “We are excited about forging new friendships and deepening partnerships across the region.”
Pacific Partnership began in response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters: the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from emphasis on direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.
Pacific Partnership 2018 will have several other distinctions:
-- A multinational command-and-control structure will be used to include a deputy mission commander from the United Kingdom and mission chief of staff from Australia;
-- The mission will visit Sri Lanka for a second consecutive year to enhance ties with the Indian Ocean nation;
-- Pacific Partnership will continue to leverage the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, a plan backed by Executive Order 13595 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325. Officials said integration of WPS into Pacific Partnership yields opportunities to engage with partner nations on the topic of gender integration and perspectives, as well as preparedness in dealing with vulnerable populations -- women, children, elderly and disabled -- during and in the aftermath of crises; and
-- This year’s mission will return to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, where the United States continues its legacy of strong cooperation and defense ties with these nations.