Pacific Partnership 2011 (PP11), the U.S. Navy's sixth iteration of the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) efforts begun following the devastating Asian Tsunami of December 2004, was officially announced during the first week of March. Captain Jesse Wilson, Commander of Destroyer Squadron 23 and Commodore of PP11, met with Department of State officials on March 1 to discuss this year's mission and to share thoughts about future planning.
Pacific Partnership relies on the Navy hospital ship, USNS MERCY, in even-numbered years, and on a "grey hull," or Navy warship in odd-numbered years. PP11 will utilize the USS CLEVELAND (LPD-7), an amphibious transport dock ship, to lead a mission that will include ships from Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. She sails March 21 from San Diego, and will visit the Pacific Island countries of Tonga (April 13-25), Vanuatu (April 28-May 10), Papua New Guinea (May 19-June 1), Timor-Leste (June 14-26), and Micronesia (July 2-15). As in the past, several hundred military, government, and civilian/ NGO personnel from partner countries will work with counterparts in the host nations to prepare and expand facilities and organizations to respond to future crises, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and changing weather patterns. The need for such readiness is clear: a tsunami hit an area of Samoa in 2009 in the months following Pacific Partnership 2009 activities there, and a powerful earthquake struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch following our PP11 Main Planning Conference in February.
Commodore Wilson reemphasized certain core precepts of Pacific Partnership when he was in Washington, including the fact that PP11 is not just a benevolent humanitarian gesture, but it is an integral part of the U.S. Navy mission. Pacific Partnership carries out three of the six core capabilities of U.S. Navy maritime strategy. One of those is the readiness and capability to provide humanitarian assistance/disaster relief; a second is to be forward deployed, which essentially means you are somewhere nearby when disaster strikes. Haiti was a good example of forward presence. The very first foreign response to the Haiti earthquake was by a U.S. Navy destroyer (a part of Captain Wilson's squadron.) And the final capability is maritime security. PP11 will work with host nations to improve their patrols of their territorial waters to protect against illegal fishing.
U.S. Embassies in Suva, Port Moresby, Dili and Kolonia have been actively engaged with their host country governments, militaries, and NGOs for months, and will be an important part of a successful, cooperative mission.