SEMBAWANG PORT, Singapore - Pacific Partnership 2019 (PP19) participants, embarked aboard USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4), arrived in Singapore May 28, marking the conclusion of the 14th iteration.
This was the first year to feature two expeditionary fast transport ships. Fall River and USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) served as the platforms this year’s mission. Teams attached to the ships made stops in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, and Thailand. Pacific Partnership is the largest annual, multilateral disaster response preparedness mission in the Indo-Pacific region.
PP19’s mission focus continued to evolve from direct assistance to furthering regional resiliency and security through disaster risk reduction opportunities to assist nations in preparing for and responding to crises. Countries from all over the world came together to collaborate and learn how to best communicate during a natural disaster.
“Pacific Partnership worked to strengthen ties and build national capabilities and preparedness for disaster emergencies,” said Royal Navy Capt. Paddy Allen, Pacific Partnership 2019 director of mission. "It is a unifying mission that fosters enduring friendships and cooperation among many nations.”
In addition to participants from the U.S. and each host nation, personnel from PP19 partner nations including Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom came together to increase disaster preparedness and capacity in the Indo-Pacific region. This is the second year that Pacific Partnership incorporated a multinational command and control structure, including a director of mission from the United Kingdom and mission chief of staff from Australia.
“Throughout our time during Pacific Partnership, we worked to build relationships in order to enable regional resilience in times of crisis,” said Royal Australian Navy Capt. Brendon Zilko, Pacific Partnership 2019 chief of staff.
Pacific Partnership allows nations to work together to build trust and understanding while learning each other’s best practices. By understanding the planning process before a disaster strikes, we enhance a timely response.
Over the past three months, PP19 participants conducted over 60 humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) preparedness subject matter expert exchanges that included workshops, symposiums and relevant scenario-based exercises. For example, in Malaysia, the HADR line of effort concluded with an extensive field training exercise, simulating local response to a flooding disaster, which is applicable to this region.
“Different countries have distinctive experiences with natural disasters, which bring a variety of capabilities," said U.S. Navy Capt. Randy Van Rossum, Pacific Partnership 2019 mission commander. “Being able to contribute diverse experiences, in something as unpredictable as a natural disaster, adds increased understanding and cooperation.”
Partner nations shared and gained expertise working side-by-side with their host nation counterparts through over 200 medical subject matter expert exchanges. The events strengthened bonds between U.S. and host nation personnel while helping each other offer medical consultations to the community. Interaction and sharing expertise now improves our ability to respond effectively when disasters strike.
Not only does expanding our knowledge in different areas of the medical field increase the region’s immediate capacity for mass casualty, but building and renovating infrastructures also provide a lasting impact. Pacific Partnership 2019 partner and host nation participants completed 21 engineering civic-action projects, including additions to schools that will function as shelters in the event of a natural disaster.
"Enabling community resilience is a common interest that we, as partner nations, continue to demonstrate by completing projects that have a lasting impact on the community," said Van Rossum. “Even though we are not all immediate neighbors, we share common interests and the strong desire to grow as a team.”
“One thing we all know throughout the whole region: disasters don’t recognize country boundaries,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, Task Force 73 commander. “It’s good for all of us to work together on these things and always be prepared. Because it’s not a question of if, but when we need each other. And when we need each other, it’s so nice to be on the radio or pick up the phone, and hear a voice you recognize, and that’s what Pacific Partnership is all about.”
Key leader and community host nation outreach events allowed PP19 participants to interact with local citizens, strengthen bonds and create new friendships. English practice, playing soccer or basketball, or learning a local community craft allow us to understand each other’s culture. Understanding builds trust, ultimately enabling cooperation.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, featuring musicians from Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Thailand, also conducted public band performances allowing participants to connect through song and dance.
Pacific Partnership’s mission is to work collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships across the Indo-Pacific region.