By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
April 13, 2019
Weno, Chuuk—Though the FSM mission of the 14th Pacific Partnership actually began almost two weeks ago when the team was diverted to outer islands in the Mortlocks of Chuuk that suffered severe damage during Typhoon Wutip, the opening ceremony was not until this morning.
Moored at the Transco Dock, the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick was the site of the opening ceremony. Before the ceremony, Director of Mission Captain Patrick (Paddy) Allen of Great Britain’s Royal Navy conducted a private tour of the vessel for dignitaries including Chuuk Governor Johnson Elimo, FSM Secretary for Foreign Affairs Lorrin Robert, United States Ambassador to the FSM Robert Riley, members of the Chuuk legislature and other dignitaries.
The Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral all-hazards preparedness mission in the Indo-Pacific region. Led by the U.S. Navy and at the invitation of host nations, Pacific Partnership military and civilian organizations work collectively in medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering civic action programs that ensure the international community is better prepared to come together in times of natural disaster or crisis. Its goal is to enhance readiness, strengthen relationships, and to exchange knowledge. The Pacific Partnership works collectively to increase regional stability and security, open dialogue between leaders, and foster new and enduring friendships across the Indo-Pacific region.
More than 500 military and civilians from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the US serve as part of the Pacific Partnership 2019. This year the crew includes members of the US Army from the region. Ambassador Riley asked Specialist Rally Gilmete from Pohnpei and Sergeant Joseia Lemari from Majuro, RMI to stand and be recognized during the ceremony.
This is the second time for the Pacific Partnership to incorporate a multinational command staff. The Director of the Mission is from the United Kingdom. The Chief of Staff is from Australia.
The partnership also includes public engagement. Yesterday, members of Pacific Partnership visited Xavier High School where members of the team participated in sporting events from kick-ball to basketball. The military band based in Pearl Harbor gave a stunning performance to the delight of the young crowd who fairly swooned at the performance.
Though the USNS Brunswick did not arrive at the Weno port until yesterday morning, the mission began in earnest two weeks ago when they were diverted to remote outer islands of Chuuk. According to Ambassador Riley, who spoke at this morning’s ceremony, during their time there, the medical team members saw 1,200 patients. Pacific Partnership brought from Kwajalein, gutter material with which they repaired the gutters on many of the houses. That gutter material helps to fill the water catchment systems that are critical to the outer islands. They repaired the roof at a school. They also made connections with the islanders through sporting events and many other community events.
“This arrangement (US defense of the FSM agreed to through the Compact of Free Association) has been a force of stability in the FSM, and by extension, to the Pacific and this has global reverberations,” Ambassador Riley said. “Over the last seven decades, the United States has promoted a free and open Pacific in which independent nations, with diverse cultures and different aspirations can prosper side by side in freedom and peace. Our leaders, soldiers, and sailors have helped frame, and now strive to sustain and strengthen the international system of clear and transparent rules, peaceful arbitration pursuits and the rule of law.”
“Through sustained cooperation, our security engagement will increase in the near and the mid-term, as we align our security posture with the threats that currently exist in the Pacific theater,” Ambassador Riley said.
Governor Johnson Elimo reminded the audience that in 2008, the USNS Mercy visited Chuuk as part of the Pacific Partnership and provided medical treatments to over 20,000 people. “Although it may look smaller than the 2008 mission, they have already visited the far flung islands treating our needy island people and interacting with them,” he said. He thanked the team profusely for their service there. “Let’s move on, embracing the vision of the Pacific Partnership to the fullest, fullest meaning of the word ‘partnership’ where governments embrace each other in the quest of seeking peace, happiness, and prosperity.
FSM Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Lorrin Robert who was representing FSM President Peter Christian was the next to address the audience. He said that he was not surprised at the strong relationship with Micronesia. “After all, it is right here in Micronesia where the American day begins,” he said. “And also, we are, in terms of security and threats in the Pacific, in Micronesia, we are the tip of the spear…we will continue to contribute to peace and prosperity throughout the world.”
“I spent 33 years in the Royal Navy,” Captain Allen said. “My whole premise from the Cold War when I first started has been about deterrents. It’s about combating manmade threats, whether that’s a state threat or a non-state threat…But coming to Pacific Partnership, it’s the first time I’ve done a mission like this, it’s not about deterrents, because, as much as we look at the geopolitics of the region and have a look at the defense side, the security side and the resilience that we bring, that tsunami in 2004 killed a quarter of a million people in a matter of hours. The greatest threat that you have for the security of the region, is Mother Nature,” he said. “Then, it’s not about deterrents but about resilience.”
The Pacific Partnership was born after the tsunami in December 2004 that swept through parts of South and Southeast Asia. It began as a military response to one of the world’s most catastrophic disaster. The United States helped to spearhead the inaugural Pacific Partnership 2006. Partner Nation militaries and Non-governmental Organizations worked together to expand disaster relief capacity in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste. The mission focus evolved from direct assistance to furthering regional resiliency and security through disaster risk reduction opportunities to assist nations in preparing for and responding to crises.
The Pacific Partnership 2019 host nations are Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor-Leste, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.