On 3 June 2013, HMAS Tobruk departed Fleet Base East in Sydney with a large joint contingent of Australian and American personnel for Exercise PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2013.
One hundred military medical and engineering personnel are embarked in Tobruk and are in transit to the townships of Wewak and Vanimo to administer medical, dental, veterinary and engineering aid.
Tobruk’s Army detachment also loaded with approximately 100 tonnes of medical and engineering cargo for the mission.
Commanding Officer, Commander Leif Maxfield, said the deployment was a superb opportunity to use Tobruk’s strengths as a heavy lift ship to deliver significant aid to our regional neighbour.
“This sort of mission delivers enormous benefit to some of our closest regional neighbours and completing this kind of deployment with Japan, New Zealand and the United States, adds confidence to our ability to respond to disasters in the Pacific region,” he said.
“Tobruk was built for this type of task and it is not her first deployment as a part of PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP. I’m very glad to see her and her crew hard at work getting the job done with our embarked personnel.”
PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2013 is an annual US-sponsored humanitarian and civic assistance mission aimed at strengthening international relationships with partner and host nations in the Asia-Pacific.
In addition to HMAS Tobruk’s deployment to Papua New Guinea, JDS Yamagiri of the Japanese Self Defence Force will provide personnel and a helicopter.
Additionally the USS Pearl Harbor of the United States Navy will deploy to Samoa, Tonga and the Marshall Islands and HMNZS Canterbury provides aid to Kiribati and Solomon Islands.
While in Wewak and Vanimo Australian Defence Force medical personnel will work with their counterparts from the United States Army and United States Navy to provide medical and dental aid, conduct clinics and health fairs for locals, and liaise with local medical practitioners.
An engineering group from the Australian Army’s 6th Engineering Support Regiment will work with members of the United States Navy’s Amphibious Construction Battalion from San Diego to conduct maintenance, repairs and refurbishment to schools, used by nearly 5000 children in Vanimo and Wewak.
Volunteers from Tobruk’s crew will also refurbish sports facilities and public buildings for the two remote townships which have a combined population of approximately 40,000 people.
For Leading Aircraftwoman Carlie Power from 3 Aero Medical Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley, the opportunity to deploy overseas in her role as a medic was what she had been looking forward to her whole career.
“I’ve always wanted to complete a humanitarian mission and do my job in the field.”
“This is my first experience outside of my home unit and working within the Navy medical platform”, she said.
“It’s good to have some exposure to rotary wing aero medical capability.”
“Having exposure to the different capabilities and equipment that the Americans have brought with them is interesting as well their application of resources and making friends is just a great bonus.”
HMAS Tobruk is a heavy lift ship based in Sydney and has a long history of service in the Royal Australia Navy including operations in the Middle East, Honiara, East Timor and Nias.
HMAS Tobruk will return to Sydney in late July.