Annual humanitarian assistance mission commences

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Darren Mallett (author), TSGT Araceli Alarcon (photographer)

Australian Defence Force personnel gather onboard USNS Mercy to start the humanitarian civic assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific region. (photo: )
Australian Defence Force personnel gather onboard USNS Mercy to start the humanitarian civic assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific region.

Twenty-four Australian Defence Force personnel have arrived in Bougainville onboard United States Navy Ship Mercy for Pacific Partnership 2015. 

More than 650 military personnel, as well as host nation and non-government organisation civilians will support the mission. 

Conducted annually, Pacific Partnership is a United States-sponsored humanitarian and civic assistance mission aimed at strengthening international relationships with partner and host nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Commander of the Australian contingent, Commander Ken Walters, said the 2015 mission would be the most complex and multi-national to date. 

“Two ships will provide support to the effort in the Pacific region,” Commander Walters said. 

“USNS Mercy, the San Diego based 1000-bed hospital ship, will conduct visits of up to 14 days in two areas of Fiji, Bougainville, Rabaul, two areas in the Philippines and Da Nang in Vietnam from June to September.”

Operating on a separate scheme of manouvre, USNS Millinocket, a high speed catamaran, has seven Australian Defence Force personnel embarked. Millinocket will undertake similar taskings in Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands and the Northern Philippines. 

Medical screening has already started ashore in Bougainville and specialists across a wide range of disciplines in USNS Mercy are beginning to provide treatment to local people who might otherwise not have access to the high level of medical care available through the Pacific Partnership mission.

Members of the Australian Defence Force are participating alongside regional military partners from the United States, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Canada, Fiji, Timor Leste and Singapore.

Australian engineers from 6 Engineer Support Regiment's 17 Construction Squadron have already started on a school building in a small community just above the town of Arawa in Bougainville. 

Working and living alongside them are five engineers from the Timor Leste military who have integrated seamlessly into the team.

Lieutenant Matthew Jensen is the troop commander leading the Australian engineering contingent. 

“We’ve got two tasks in the Arawa, Bougainville area constructing and refurbishing school buildings,” Lieutenant Jensen said. 

“Across both those projects, the Australian engineers will be working with our Timor Leste partners and the United States Navy, primarily the Seabees.

“The team feels it’s rewarding, they’re giving something to a community that otherwise might not be available to them. 

“Building a school is really fulfilling, providing an opportunity to the local children and we feel quite privileged to get the chance to do something positive.” 

Through Pacific Partnership, Australia is enhancing our ability to improve military and civilian coordination among nations and organisations that share a common interest in maintaining a stable and secure Asia-Pacific.

Although Pacific Partnership is a US Navy-led mission, this year the command team has an Anzac touch, with Australia and New Zealand filling the significant roles of Deputy Mission Commander, Captain Brian Delamont (Royal Australian Navy) and Chief of Staff, Wing Commander Jennifer Atkinson (Royal New Zealand Air Force).