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 PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2013: 2 June

GPCAPT Darryn Webb RNZAF is the Deputy Mission Commander for Pacific Partnership 13
GPCAPT Darryn Webb RNZAF is the Deputy Mission Commander for Pacific Partnership 13

By GPCAPT Darryn Webb, Deputy Mission Commander

Pacific Partnership 13 is this year’s largest humanitarian and disaster preparedness exercise in the South Pacific. As the name implies Pacific Partnership is a truly multinational and whole-of-government affair, with military personnel from the US, NZ, Australia, France, Canada, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore along with non-governmental organizations, academic and embassy support.

This year NZ will play a greater role as the lead nation during the Kiribati and Solomon Islands phases, when HMNZS CANTERBURY and a large NZDF contingent join us. For myself, I will be the Deputy Mission Commander throughout the 98-day deployment.

Flexibility has always been drummed into me by the RNZAF, and this was relevant when loading our ship, USS PEARL HARBOR, with some 700 expert personnel from around the world, then setting sail for the Pacific Islands.

When I arrived at Pearl Harbor the Mission Commander then informed me he was travelling by air to Samoa and it was 'all mine'. My previous sea going experience consisted of crossing Cook Strait over Christmas so there was a sense of trepidation as we sailed. Thankfully I didn't suffer from any motion sickness and the seven days aboard the USS PEARL HARBOR provided an invaluable opportunity to get to know the team and for them to get to know me. The key to success was to quickly develop an effective working relationship with the ship's leadership team (CO and XO). Ironing out the language and culture gaps took a few days but by the time we reached our first destination Samoa we were ‘in synch’.

The remaining 17 Kiwi team members met us in Samoa including FLTLT Lara Blackmore and W/O Steve Hunn, key members of the medical detachment.

The opening ceremony at Apia, Samoa, included the Head of State, Prime Minister and NZ High Commissioner, co-hosted by the US Ambassador. I had the privilege being Master of Ceremonies, and I managed to sneak in some recently acquired beginner Te Reo to add a pacific flavor.

We will be alongside Samoa for 10 days with an average in excess of 300 personnel out and about building relationships and knowledge and delivering supplies and support. My role as Deputy Mission Commander entails accompanying the leadership delegation visiting the various community engagements. They ranged from health clinics, schools for disabled kids, disaster planning symposiums and the like. Lots of handshakes, speeches, and dancing!

The aim is not to create a dependency, but rather develop an enhanced ability for Pacific Island nations to self manage disaster scenarios and in the process improve our own interoperability and cultural awareness.

 

USS PEARL HARBOR is an amphibious landing ship designed to transport up to 400 marines and all their gear. The ship has an internal dock capable of receiving a landing craft 150 feet long that can move up to 350 fully equipped marines from the ship to shore. There is also a flight deck for two medium size helicopters.

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