The 2016 edition of the largest annual multilateral disaster relief preparedness mission Pacific Partnership concluded in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
The mission was led by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, embarked aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). Approximately 1,200 military and civilian personnel from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States participated for the duration or parts of the four-month long mission.
Pacific Partnership 2016, visited Dili, Timor Leste; Legazpi, Philippines; Da Nang, Vietnam; Kuantan, Malaysia; and Padang, Indonesia. Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces embarked aboard JS Shimokita (LST 4002) led a mission stop to Koror, Palau. Multinational Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR), medical, and civil-engineering teams partnered with their counterparts in each country to conduct live search and rescue field training exercises, subject matter expert exchanges, cooperative health engagements and community relations events.
Pacific Partnership began in response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters, the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from the provision of direct care to collective capacity building, and Pacific Partnership 2016 focused primarily on knowledge exchange with the intent of sharing knowledge and skills that last long after the mission is over; increasing resiliency and building sustained relationships.
“The men and women of Pacific Partnership made significant advances to the mission through their collaboration with host nations and our civilian and military partners,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, Commander, Task Force 73. “Their hard work deepened partnerships and enhanced readiness in search and rescue and humanitarian and disaster response preparedness, preparing us to work together even more closely in the future.”
Pacific Partnership 2016 different from previous missions
This year’s mission visited Malaysia for the first time, although Malaysia has contributed forces to Pacific Partnership since it began in 2006.
Also, the visit by Mercy to Vietnam saw improved U.S. and Vietnamese military cooperation during a live search and rescue exercise on the Han River in Da Nang which included Vietnam People’s Navy ship Khanh Hoa (K-123) and crew members from JS Shimokita (LST 4002).
Pacific Partnership 2016 further capitalized on the Women Peace and Security program, an international initiative designed to empower women, and demonstrate the importance of including them in the planning and implementation of disaster preparedness and relief efforts. The Pacific Partnership 2016 Women, Peace and Security team hosted seminars and workshops as well as discussions during HADR symposiums.
The U.S. Navy said that planning for Pacific Partnership 2017 was ongoing.