About the Author: Tom Weinz serves as the dedicated Foreign Service Liaison Officer for Pacific Partnership 2010.
Pacific Partnership 2010 aboard the USNS Mercy came to its termination on August 23rd, with a closing ceremony held in Dili, Timor-Leste, followed by the transfer of Commodore Franchetti and about seventy personnel to the Royal Australian Navy amphibious ship the HMAS Tobruk, which will conduct a smaller mission near Rabaul, New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG). I left both Mercy, which is on its way home to San Diego via Guam and Pearl Harbor, as well as the PNG group, to fly from Dili to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, where I am writing this piece.
As anyone who has followed Pacific Partnership 2010 knows, this project has been an impressive effort. It has involved more than 2,000 people from military, NGO, and partner nation organizations. We renovated schools, hospitals and public buildings in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste, and drilled three badly-needed water wells in Cambodia. PP10 medical providers treated tens of thousands of patients, dispensed many thousands of pairs of eyeglasses, and provided needed basic medications to remote locations and islands. Volunteers visited orphanages and other public-assistance facilities almost daily while in our mission ports, and took part in frequent public relations activities (soccer, basketball, mangrove planting) which ensured people-to-people interaction on an unprecedented scale, compared to earlier Pacific Partnership missions.
Planning for Pacific Partnership 2011 has been ongoing for some months, and the official Initial Planning Conference is scheduled for September 28 and 29 in San Diego. Preliminary plans call for a return of the USS Peleliu (used in the 2007 Pacific Partnership) to some of the island nations of the South Pacific. Based on the extremely favorable reactions to Pacific Partnership over the years from the countries which have been visited, it will be difficult to choose a final list of mission countries for 2011 -- but that decision is expected by September first.
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, return to Indonesia, and work on projects in Indonesia.