SATTAHIP, Thailand -- Multinational forces embarked aboard Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) and Royal Thai Armed Forces conducted a series of interactions centered on humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR), May 20-22.
The first official event of PP18 following the opening ceremony May 20 was a visit to the Disaster Relief Training Center, Armed Forces Development Command in Phanom Sarakham District. There, U.S. and UK HADR specialists and medical professionals met with their Thai counterparts to discuss resources and strategies for their implementation based upon lessons learned. The facility is comprised of multiple stations designed to mimic different scenarios, including an earthquake/building collapse stations, an air rescue station, a flood station, a landslide station, a fire station and a chemical leakage station - all plausible scenarios in the wake of a natural disaster.
"Pacific Partnership was borne from the 2004 tsunami, which devastated Thailand," explained U.S. Army Capt. Jason Wagner, HADR team lead aboard Brunswick. "This is the impetus behind much of what we do. Our Thai hosts have been more than willing to share their experiences with natural disasters in the area and how they organize their people."
The following day, Royal Thai Armed Forces personnel boarded Brunswick for a symposium outlining both U.S. and Thai disaster management systems, with the goal to educate both nations on the different procedures to better gain an understanding of how each system works in order to coordinate with multiple agencies and maximize results in the event of an emergency. The final HADR-centric event took the form of a tabletop exercise aboard Brunswick on May 22. There, the two nations were merged into teams and challenged with a scenario. Both teams worked together, factoring in the knowledge presented the day before, to formulate a framework to address the myriad challenges that come with a natural disaster.
"Natural disasters happen so frequently in this area, and this has been a great learning experience from the U.S. side," Wagner emphasized. "We're better able to understand how the Thai military operates in times of natural disaster, so if something did happen, we'd be better able to respond and integrate with the entire government and Thai military to more effectively respond to an all-hazard event in the region."
Pacific Partnership, now in its 13th iteration, is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. PP18's objective is to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made and natural disasters.
PP18 consists of more than 800 U.S. military personnel stationed worldwide, working side-by-side with host nation counterparts to be better prepared for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.