On May 11, the United States, allies and partner nations kicked off this year’s iteration of the annual U.S.-led Pacific Partnership mission, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission in the Asia-Pacific.
Pacific Partnership, led by the U.S. Navy in partnership with other like-minded countries and non-governmental organizations, sees the combined force visiting several host nations every year and engaging in a variety of local outreach efforts to improve boost capabilities, build relationships and bolster collective ability to respond to natural disasters. It began in 2006 following the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia.
This year’s mission will be led by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, embarked on the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), and will include more than 600 military and civilian personnel from the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, Republic of Korea and Japan, according to a statement released by U.S. Navy’s Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC), the Seventh Fleet’s principal logistics agent and bilateral exercise coordinator for Southeast Asia. Japan will also lead a mission to Palau.
In Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Timor Leste, and Vietnam are all scheduled to host this year’s Pacific Partnership mission, a list which changes each year after months of planning. As I wrote previously, the list for Pacific Partnership 2015 included the Philippines, Vietnam, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Micronesia, Solomon Islands (See: “US Navy Ships Move to Vietnam for Asia’s Largest Annual Humanitarian Mission”).
During each stop in Pacific Partnership 2016, medical, dental, civil-engineering, and veterinary teams will partner with host nations for various interactions including civic-action projects, community health exchanges, medical symposiums, and humanitarian and disaster relief (HA/DR) drills. The engagements between Pacific Partnership participants and host nations are designed to boost capacity, strengthen partnerships, and increase multilateral collaboration for HA/DR preparedness.
This year’s Pacific Partnership also features a number of distinctions, including the utilization of a multinational command-and-control structure to include defense officials from Australia and New Zealand as well as the highlighting of the role of women in HA/DR efforts in line with the Women Peace and Security Program initiative.