About the Author: Tom Weinz served as the Foreign Service Liaison Officer (FSLO) aboard the USNS Richard E. Byrd for Pacific Partnership 2009 (PP09).
Early in this series, I reflected on how our best-laid plans often take a detour. My personal detour came in French New Caledonia, when some medical tests prevented my sailing with the USNS Byrd, and I subsequently returned to the Washington, DC area. Although I know both Solomon Islands, and PP09's specific mission, very well, I am sorry to miss what continues to be an effective and mutually beneficial undertaking. Guadalcanal Day memorial services were held early on August 7 at the well-kept American Memorial on Skyline Ridge, overlooking Iron Bottom Sound. Americans and Solomon Islanders alike gathered to reflect on the profound events that took place there in 1942-1943.
A few days later, as I was monitoring PP09 activity in Solomon Islands from my home, I read an article in the Solomon Islands “Island Sun” newspaper lauding the Pacific Partnership effort, but pleading for sustainability, an equally important concept to Pacific Partnership planners and participants. These events and emotions resonate with me, what that means, and how it impacts people in their daily lives.
Solomon Islands is at a critical juncture. In 2003, the Solomon Islands Parliament requested assistance to stabilize their country, socially and economically. The response came in the guise of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), military, police and civilian personnel from fifteen Pacific countries working to help Solomon Islanders achieve peace and stability. Sustainability is key to their plans also. Pacific Partnership responded to requests to provide assistance to both Guadalcanal and Malaita, the two key islands responsible for a better future. As I write this, the Byrd is leaving the Solomon Islands, after treating thousands of people and renovating additional schools and hospitals, and constructing teaching facilities for the local Red Cross. Though their stay was not long, PP09 personnel have done much to contribute to sustainability in health care and education for all the people of Solomon Islands.