TACLOBAN, Philippines –
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's JS Kunisaki (LST 4003), carrying a multinational crew of U.S., Australian, Malaysian and Japanese personnel, arrived in Tacloban July 4 as part of Pacific Partnership 2014 (PP14).
The ship and its roughly 300 embarked personnel arrived nearly eight months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the region.
Arriving on Independence Day, the U.S. personnel assigned to the mission had a special meal to commemorate the occasion before beginning a 10-day operation consisting of professional medical exchanges, including providing basic medical, dental, and optometry clinics; several professional medical knowledge exchange seminars; and veterinary surgical and vaccination services.
Seabees from Amphibious Construction Battalion One and Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One have already begun working with members from the Armed Forces Philippines on four construction projects at three separate sites, and the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band will conduct several public performances.
Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Although the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led mission provides tangible assistance to the local community, by definition its intention and purpose is to better prepare for emergencies and disaster situations such as was experienced less than a year ago by the city of Tacloban during Typhoon Haiyan.
"I remember seeing the images of the devastation from the typhoon all over the news and now that I'm here and I see the scars left from that storm, it's a confirmation of why missions such as this are so important," said PP14 Mission Commander, U.S. Navy Capt. Brian Shipman.
"It was because we practice these things, because we have a presence in the region, and because of our cooperation with our friends and allies that we were able to coordinate and provide rapid, effective humanitarian assistance and disaster relief when it was needed," he added.
As personnel arrived ashore, Shipman pointed out how much the world had changed, as American service members disembarked from a Japanese landing craft a short distance from where U.S. General Douglas MacArthur made his historic return to the Philippines some 70 years ago.
At the invitation of host nations, PP14 teams working with local authorities determine how to best serve the communities they have been invited to, given the duration and resources available for the mission.
"It's obvious to see why we were invited to Tacloban given what they've been through. There is a lot of work to be done here, but many different organizations and nations are currently doing some great work," said U.S. Navy Lt. Ron Piramide, PP14 Philippine team officer in charge.
"I'm honored to be able to be part of something that is contributing to the overall work being done in the area and I look forward to seeing the great work our team will accomplish."
While training in simulated crisis-conditions, Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided real-world medical care to approximately 250,000 patients, veterinary services to more than 37,000 animals, accomplished more than 170 engineering projects, and enabled critical infrastructure development in Cambodia, Federated States of Micronesia, Indonesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Vanuatu and Vietnam.
"Pacific Partnership forms bonds between nations and organizations who share a common interest in maintaining a stable and secure Pacific region," said PP14 Chief of Staff, Australian Army Lt. Col. John Cronin.
Kunisaki has already visited Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Republic of the Philippines is the last stop for this year's mission. The Southern portion of Pacific Partnership, conducted by Task Force Forager, an expeditionary command element from the Navy's 30th Naval Construction Regiment and led by Capt. Rod Moore, provided assistance to the host nations of Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
Pacific Partnership is in its ninth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Asia-Pacific region.