Members of Pacific Partnership 2013 worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to deliver a reverse osmosis water system donated by the U.S. Agency for International Development to Ebeye, an island in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, July 7.
The reverse osmosis system, donated about two years ago, was loaded onto a landing craft utility (LCU) in Majuro, the capital city, about 140 miles from Ebeye.
From there, the LCU boarded amphibious dock-landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), the command platform for Pacific Partnership 2013, which transported the system and the LCU to Ebeye, where only one of two reverse osmosis systems on the island is functioning – the other has been broken and waiting on a new part for more than a year.
The 15,000 residents of Ebeye rely on reverse osmosis to fill a 25,000-gallon tank at the Ebeye Purified Water Storage Facility, where they fill containers for drinking water, said Julian Reimers, the general foreman for water and sewer operations on the island.
Officials agreed that the residents of Ebeye needed the water system months ago, but both cost and safety issues were associated with the 48-hour transit aboard a fuel barge, which was the only other feasible option to deliver the system, according to Romeo Alfred, manager of the Kwajalein Atoll Joint Utility Resource, which will house the new reverse osmosis system.
“The arrival of Pearl Harbor meant we had a mechanism to move it to Ebeye,” said Dave Neville, an Australian employee of IOM, who helped facilitate efforts to transport the reverse osmosis system between islands. “Pacific Partnership was kind enough to step in and move it, otherwise we would have had a difficult time.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Stephen Hunter, project coordinator on the Pacific Partnership side, said the mission was already scheduled to visit Majuro and Kwajalein. The reverse osmosis systems movement fit well with the mission’s goals so there was no question on whether or not Pacific Partnership would help IOM.
Marshall Island civilians, U.S. military, and international organizations worked together to successfully relocate the system.
“It has been nothing but smooth,” said Hunter.
The coordination required across the different groups is a well-established trend on the Pacific Partnership 2013 mission, which involves ten partner nations working in coordination with six host nations.
“Without the entities working together, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Neville. “While the U.S. Navy offers a very specific capability, other partners offer very different capabilities. Together, they can get lots done, but individually it would be very hard for any one organization to get this thing done right.”
Alfred said that the help from IOM and the perfect timing of the Pacific Partnership mission has been a tremendous help for the whole community.
Pacific Partnership is a mission that brings host nation governments, U.S. military, partner nation militaries and non-governmental organization volunteers together to conduct disaster-preparedness projects and build relationships in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to better respond during a crisis.
Press Release, July 9, 2013; Image: US Navy