About the Author: Tom Weinz served as the Foreign Service Liaison Officer (FSLO) aboard the USNS Richard E. Byrd for Pacific Partnership 2009 (PP09).Pacific Partnership has officially come to an end. The final projects were carried out in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), a group of 29 coral atolls and five single islands with a land area of just 70 square miles spread across 750,000 square miles of ocean. The Marshall Islands have been closely associated with the United States since World War II. A complex Compact of Free Association between RMI and the United States went into effect in 1986, and a renegotiated compact went into force on May 1, 2004. The U.S. Army operates a large missile test range on RMI’s Kwajalein Atoll. Pacific Partnership 2007 also visited the Marshall Islands, so this was the second mission to RMI. There may be many more.
By any measurement, PP09 was a praiseworthy achievement. The Navy will publish final figures in the near future, which will clarify in statistics the thousands of hours of medical, dental, veterinarian, engineering and community relations activities that were accomplished since the Richard E. Byrd arrived in Samoa arrived in Samoa at the end of June. For me, the greatest legacy is and will remain the countless interactions among the multi-national providers and recipients of this mission. Friendships were forged that will continue over the years, and that will enhance follow-on missions by Pacific Partnership.
Welcome Pacific Partnership 2010. Sustainability has been of primary concern over Pacific Partnership’s relatively short life. Multi-year commitments to a fixed schedule are not currently possible, but a tentative outline of future missions would provide both continuity and encouragement to prospective recipient peoples and governments. In addition to RMI, four countries have benefitted from at least two separate Pacific Partnership missions over the past four years (The Philippines, Viet Nam, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands).
On September 23 and 24, I have been attending the Initial Planning Conference (IPC) for Pacific Partnership 2010. The list of participants includes an encouraging majority of familiar names from the Navy, NGOs, participating foreign governments and specialized contractors. These individuals, combined with extensive “lessons learned” inputs from PP09 staff still on the USNS Byrd, will contribute measurably to the continuity so crucial to this long-term program. Expect to see a return of Pacific Partnership sites, pictures and blogs about May of 2010, when I expect the USNS Mercy to return to the South Pacific.
Read Tom's previous entry: Pacific Partnership Builds Bridges in Kiribati.