PACIFIC OCEAN -- U.S. Navy, Royal Navy and Australian Defence Force military members are embarked aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) as part of the of Pacific Partnership 2022 (PP22) mission team.
Now in its 17th year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific.
Captain Charles Maynard, Royal Navy, part of the mission’s multinational command and control structure, serves as the PP22 deputy mission commander.
“Having an international deputy is a great way of saying how important the partner’s element in Pacific Partnership is,” said Maynard. “Additionally and equally important are the host nations we will be visiting, and all the exciting things that we are going to do like medical, engineering, humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) training and outreach activities. This year Pacific Partnership for the UK is a quite a significant contribution, and I am delighted and honored to be the deputy commander.”
Each year, the Pacific Partnership team works collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase security and stability in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships in the Indo-Pacific. Mercy serves as PP22’s mission platform.
“Mercy provides this amazing capability in terms of number of people that we have here, the medical range of activities that we can provide and the specializations and capabilities of the people we have with us,” said Maynard. “Everyone is critical to make sure this mission runs as successfully as it can be. I want to make sure that every individual feels like they are part of the mission and their contribution is as important as someone else’s.”
This year, the UK’s contributions to Pacific Partnership extend beyond the mission’s deputy commander. Later in the mission, HMS Tamar (P233), a Royal Navy ship, will join the Pacific Partnership team. Additionally, Lt. Lesley Hailey, a navy medical planner from the United Kingdom and Pacific Partnership alumna, is currently embarked aboard Mercy, along with Maynard.
“I was part of Pacific Partnership back in 2016 on the dental team, but my current job is Medical Service Officer (MSO), working with the medical planning team,” said Hailey. “For each port visit, we plan and schedule medical events that take place like side-by-side engagements and environmental health all the way up to surgery onboard.”
Hailey believes participation in Pacific Partnership has many benefits.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to work with different militaries and come out on an American ship,” said Hailey. “I am learning more about my job, things that I can take that back and incorporate in the UK. Pacific Partnership is different, exciting and gratifying to be a part of because we are supporting other nations and giving back.”
Australian Defence Force (ADF) officers representing the Army, Navy and Air Force embarked Mercy as well. These members form a Gender, Peace and Security (GPS) Team that aims to work with host and partner nations, focusing on the human rights of the most vulnerable members of society during disaster and crisis responses as addressed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.
This core team will be joined by ADF medical personnel, who will provide specialized support during port visits throughout the mission.
Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Vicky Nguyen said it’s important for leaders to understand GPS principles in all situations and operations and to ensure meaningful discussion around how conflict affects men and women differently.
“When I partake in planning of operations back in Australia, I take into consideration the gender impacts and how it is that I could involve more women to have a voice and a seat at the table,” said Nguyen.
Australian Army Major Andy Carroll-Keays said that during PP22, the team plans to educate others on the role of GPS considerations in HADR operations.
“There is a specific event where we have been asked to provide a Women’s, Peace, Security presentation during a humanitarian assistance disaster-relief workshop, and we are working with exercise planners to provide additional engagement opportunities,” said Carroll-Keays.
The PP22 mission affords the GPS team an opportunity to present their knowledge and expertise with both host and partner nations. Their objective is to make sure that the fundamentals behind GPS are being practiced and put into place in all aspects of planning.
“[Our goal is] broadening the general knowledge of GPS and the action plans out there,” said Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Sophia Maling. “There is not a specific spot for GPS at the moment like there should be, but it needs to be brought into the planning process to round things out.”
“What makes me most proud or happy to be here is we as a coalition team are learning how to respond to conflict and disaster relief,” added Australian Army Captain Isabella Negus. “We are also having a knowledge sharing eco-system with countries we are going to. It’s all about partnership, trusting each other, learning from each other and ultimately preparing for when the next disaster happens in order to be ready to go and help.”
Pacific Partnership is a unifying mission that fosters enduring friendship and cooperation among many nations. The benchmark for mission success is interlaced with the collective efforts of all PP22 team members.
“If we are going to have a successful mission, we need to have the response from the host nations that they feel our presence is genuinely worthwhile, important, and that we make a difference,” said Maynard. “If they can say our contributions have made a difference to their lives, that’s probably the most important thing.”