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Pacific Partnership: 20 June

The LCM departs from USS PEARL HARBOR carrying Pacific Partnership staff ashore at Tonga
The LCM departs from USS PEARL HARBOR carrying Pacific Partnership staff ashore at Tonga.

Kia Ora, Talofa Lava, Malo e Lelei

By FLTLT Lara Blackmore    

So far Pacific Partnership has been a crash course of operating in a truly joint, inter-agency, multi-national and amphibious environment.

I began writing this at sea between Samoa and Tonga, finally able to work through the haze of anti-nausea medication and now used to the gentle rolling of the ship.

The Samoa phase was a success. The team I am involved in (Disaster Response) delivered a series of theory and practical education and training sessions for local agencies, to help improve their disaster response skills.

In the build-up to the exercise, I and other members of the NZDF medical team were involved in a series of support activities. We provided first aid training to Samoa’s Red Cross personnel, and presented a donation of medical supplies. I presented, on behalf of the NZDF, at a symposium on civil-military interaction during a Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response situation. This presentation was conducted along side the US military and ADF, and we each spoke about how we engage through our respective governments, what type of support we can provide and some of the planning considerations.

My primary role was to engage in an exercise aimed at testing Samoa’s disaster response capabilities. This table top and field exercise followed the symposium. I observed as a disaster scenario was worked through and the first responders were put to the test.

A highlight for us on board was when 200 of the young men from Don Bosco School came aboard and entertained us on the flight deck with a very impressive Fia Fia dance night. Earlier in the day a smaller group from the School beat a Pacific Partnership team in a traditional long boat race. Don Bosco is a technical school for boys who have been in trouble in one way or another get a second chance to learn skills and develop pride in themselves through practical connection to their cultural heritage.

15 June, at Tonga:

Tonga is ‘interesting’; we are anchored out at sea with a 60 minute boat ride each way. Getting all of the people and the equipment required off the ship, to the shore and back each day using our ships LCM could be a logistical nightmare.

20 June:

From my perspective the HADR planning and support was less extensive than in Samoa. A couple of us went out with a COMREL (community relations) activity to two schools on Monday [17 June]to support the presentation of donated school supplies. We played sports, the US Navy band played and we danced with the kids. It was the most fun we have had on the trip and the very energetic kids wore us out!

We have a couple of our staff out on the island doing some first aid training for disaster response and another out with the Dental team.

As we are anchored off shore and we have had some rough weather—inhibiting landing craft transfers—we have become somewhat disjointed as a team, with some on the ship for days and some stuck ashore.

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