About the Author: Tom Weinz serves as the dedicated Foreign Service Liaison Officer for Pacific Partnership 2010.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns posted a DipNote blog earlier this week from Jakarta, “U.S. Commitment To Building a Comprehensive Partnership With Indonesia,” in which he stressed the significant progress we have made in “people-to-people” relations between Americans and Indonesians. I often wish that readers of these pieces could spend a day interacting with the people we meet while on this mission. Pacific Partnership 2010's primary mission in Indonesia is to work with counterparts in disaster relief to prepare for future assistance missions in the region, so there are more local doctors, dentists, and support people working with us than in Cambodia and Vietnam.
The mission here is separated into three phases, which has provided an opportunity to practice rapid deployment and withdrawal, as would be necessary in an actual disaster relief situation. For example, we have deployed a surgical final-screening team within hours of arrival at a destination, which begins to send patients to Mercy for surgery in the shortest possible time frame. And as Mercy was literally leaving Tobelo at three in the afternoon of July 17, our two helicopters were picking up the medical personnel and supplies from an outreach site and transporting them to the moving ship.
Secretary Clinton is also in the region this week, leading the U.S. delegation to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum Ministerial in Hanoi, Vietnam. What I find encouraging in all the current activity is the cooperative focus of the participants, and the consistency of U.S. Government efforts, from Pacific Partnership to the Peace Corps, U.S. Embassy, and our U.S. Consulates.
We spent five days in Tobelo and Morotai, and arrived here in Ternate on Tidore Island early July 18. We enjoyed a memorable opening ceremony: U.S. Consul General Kristen Bauer, who only arrived at her post in Surabaya on July 15, offered opening remarks. A guest of honor was a local man named Thamrin, who is the last surviving Ternate veteran who fought with General Douglas MacArthur's allied forces during WWII. Mr. Thamrin delivered a letter to MacArthur from the Sultan of Ternate (in whose residence we held our opening ceremony), which eventually led to the Sultan's family being rescued from Japanese detention. Another reminder of how different the world was within this man's lifetime, how far we've travelled towards a more cooperative and democratic relationship, and the historic ties that bind the United States and Indonesia.
You can trace the Mercy's journey from its initial announcement to preparations for launch, setting sail, arrival in Vietnam, work in Vietnam, farewell to Vietnam, arrival in Cambodia, community outreach in Cambodia, celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Singapore, and returning to Indonesia.