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NEWS | Nov. 14, 2023

Pacific Partnership 24-1 concludes first mission stop in the Republic of the Marshall Islands

By Ensign Lacy Burkett, Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific

Multinational service members participating in Pacific Partnership 2024-1 (PP24-1) departed the Republic of the Marshall Islands aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) Nov. 14 following a 14-day mission stop in the island nation.

“Pacific Partnership has brought together people from different backgrounds, cultures and expertise to work hand-in-hand, fostering understanding and building lifetime connections,” said the Honorable Ladie Jack, the mayor of Majuro. “Through our collective efforts, we have achieved remarkable milestones and made a positive impact on the lives of our countless individuals.”

This was Pacific Partnership’s fifth visit to the Republic of the Marshall Islands since its first visit in 2007. Service members from the United States and Australia worked with Marshallese on a range of events including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) seminars, engineering projects, medical engagements and host nation outreach events.

“I am grateful to have the chance to work alongside our friends here in the Republic of Marshall Islands,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Brian Quin, mission commander. “Kommol tata to the Marshallese people for inviting us to their country and for a successful first stop of many during Pacific Partnership 24-1. These enduring bonds of friendship and trust that we have put together across this mission are the real reward of this visit.”

Members of PP24-1’s medical group sailed aboard RMIS Liwatoon Mour, the Marshallese hospital ship, for 4-day mission where they worked side-by-side with Marshallese medical providers conducting a tuberculosis eradication campaign in Aur Atoll.

“The success of this joint effort to bring critical health testing and treatment to the people of Aur represents the best of what our two nations can achieve when working together toward common goals, such as containing the scourge of tuberculosis,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Lance Posey.

This effort held extra significance because it was first time in Pacific Partnership history that U.S. medical personnel operated from a host nation's hospital ship.

"Tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death in the Marshall Islands.," said Lt. Hoel Rupert David, medical planner, family nurse practitioner. "Because of that, a Marshallese medical team conducts a Tuberculosis eradication campaign to the various Atolls each year. This was the first year our medical staff was able to do an expeditionary medical operation to assist with the campaign. It was such an honor to work alongside the Marshallese medical staff and make a difference in people's lives."

Aboard the Mercy, Pacific Partnership’s optometry team worked side-by-side with the local ophthalmologist, Dr. Meena Pathak, to screen patients and remove cataracts from 42 Marshallese patients.

“We were able to give the gift of sight to patients who were previously debilitated due to cataracts, which are the most common cause of treatable blindness in the world,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Gabriel Valerio, head of surgery for this year’s Pacific Partnership. “This surgery returns these patients to being productive members of society and frees family caretakers to do the same. This increases the quality of life, not only for the patient, but also for the entire family and community. I am honored and blessed to have been a part of the Marshallese citizens’ care.”

Additionally, the optometry team provided 795 pairs of eyeglasses to community members as part of their vision health efforts.

The 3-day Pacific Partnership 24-1 humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) workshop centered on climate change and Marshallese disaster response capabilities. More than 30 members of the Majuro first responder community, including representatives from the National Disaster Management Office, Port Authority, Sea Patrol, Marshall Island Police Department and the Directorate of Civil Aviation, participated in the workshop, which culminated in a Mass Rescue Operations Exercise in the Majuro lagoon.

“We practiced coordinating boats to do search patterns and pull victims out of the water,” said James Gardner, a planner with the U.S. Coast Guard. “With the three different search areas covered, we were able to locate all 25 mannequins.”

This was especially valuable for the newer members of Sea Patrol, for whom this kind of skills training was a new experience, said Nate Lometo, a member of the Marshall Islands Sea Patrol.

U.S. Navy Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 (ACB 1) led engineering projects at Long Island and Rita Elementary Schools. Working alongside local volunteers, including American and local staff from the U.S. Embassy, the Seabees repaired sinks, rewired electrical systems, replaced outdoor lighting, painted classroom interiors and exteriors, and installed new ceiling lights and fans, handrails, and toilets.

“The ability to work with the local schools here in Marshall Islands and to make a difference for the kids here was truly a rewarding experience”, said Lt. j. g. Nelson Demarest, the engineering planner for Pacific Partnership 24-1. “This has been one of the highlights of my naval career.”

Across 32 host-nation outreach events, more than 3,600 Sailors, students, and residents of Majuro came together to foster bonds of friendship through concerts, sports days, and religious events.

Now in its 19th iteration, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Pacific Partnership works collaboratively 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.