Pacific Partnership 2011: Learning the Importance of Team-Building Aboard Ship

Posted by Thomas E. Weinz
April 11, 2011
Tom Weinz Briefs on Tonga to Pacific Partnership 2011 Personnel

Pacific Partnership begins with a daunting challenge: several hundred people, many of whom recently met, need to move tons of equipment into a foreign country; travel to work in a military landing craft, a large Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB), or by Navy helicopter; move overland to a location they have never seen; and work smoothly and efficiently from the moment they arrive until departure. Building a cohesive unit that operates on the basis of a unified mission statement, as well as smaller units for logistics, medical, dental, veterinarian, and engineering projects, has defined life aboard the USS Cleveland since leaving Pearl Harbor on April 4.

Life aboard ship contributes greatly to the critical team-building aspect of the mission. Participants share close quarters, eat meals together, practice drills together, and are always within walking distance of the next meeting (a mixed blessing...). As Commander Ashley Papp of the Royal Australian Navy wrote in his recent blog, learning to work together now will pay huge dividends in times of crisis, and ensure that we deliver "…the right support, at the right time, in the right way when needed.” Part of my personal mission responsibility is to present historical/cultural/overview briefs to everyone on the ship before arriving in the next country -- about 10 briefs to 50 people in each session. It is an opportunity to meet and work with every person on this remarkable journey.

We are currently very close to Tonga, which was emphasized by the “loss” of a full day. We fell asleep on Sunday, crossed that imaginary line in the Pacific Ocean (the International Date Line) and woke up on Tuesday. April 11 is blank in our diaries and calendars. Pacific Partnership last visited in 2009, to the Ha'apai island group. (Tonga is composed of three island groups of 170 islands, 40 of which are inhabited.) Pacific Partnership 2011 will work throughout the northernmost island group, known as Vava'u. While in Vava'u, we will send a team south to the Ha'apai group to evaluate the impact of Pacific Partnership 2009 for the local population. Evaluations here and in other locations from past missions will provide important data for future Pacific Partnership missions.

Comments

Comments

DrG
|
West Virginia, USA
April 11, 2011

Dr. G. in West Virginia writes:

Here we go. As I've said before, "This is how you distribute US aid --- by military transport direct to the troubled area"

Tom W.
April 11, 2011

DipNote Blogger Tom Weinz writes:

@ Dr. G: And there is no one who has been a participant in Pacific Partnership that is likely to disagree with you. And we are getting much better at involving local populations and governments in all phases of the operation, which multiplies the impact.

Mari
|
Iowa, USA
April 11, 2011

Mari in Iowa writes:

They're getting close to Tonga!!!! This is KJ's ship.

Kim A.
|
Australia
April 11, 2011

Kim A. in Australia writes:

I was fortunate enough to take part in a Pacific Partnership medical course in the Solomons in 2009 and I was so impressed with the willingness and kindness of the military staff. I did however question why they gave so much floss (for your teeth) as although there is a big need for it, it is not culturally appropriate unless it is combined with teaching the people why its needed and how to use it. When I saw the floss I was thinking about it in terms of how many fishing nets we might be able to make to catch fish and eat. None the less, I love the heart behind the act, and your representatives were amazing.

Roger
|
Australia
April 11, 2011

Roger in Australia writes:

How will you alleviate the trepidation of seeing a warship and the sounds of a helicopter for civilians during PP11? Thank you for your consideration of this matter. :-) ^RW

MARY F.
|
Virginia, USA
April 13, 2011

Mary Lyn F. in Virginia writes:

Wishing you the best as you are fortunate enough to visit Vava'u. I was there as a district health nurse/midwife in the Peace Corps in 1971. There is much to learn in each village and I was treated with great respect and warmth for my entire time in Tefisi. Please provide special attention to my villages of work - Leimatu'a, Vaimalo, Tuanuku, Tefisi and the entire island group. They deserve gentle attention, listening and support from your team.

Tom W.
April 13, 2011

DipNote Blogger Tom Weinz writes:

Roger, Kim and Mari: FYI, we moored of Vava'u, Tonga just now (WED morning in Tonga). Excellent point about the ships and helos, but everyone seems fine with them on a humanitarian mission. In Tonga in 2009, we brought a helicopter to a school dedication, and all the children had pictures sitting in the pilot's seat. We offer tours of the ships to local people in each country, and they are very popular. As for the floss incident, the dentists offer classes for dental providers in each country and encourage them to teach people how to brush, use floss, etc. We even have a dental volunteer from Project Hope this year who is doing puppet shows which teach dental hygiene!

Tom W.
|
Tonga
April 14, 2011

DipNote Blogger Tom Weinz writes:

@ Mari Lyn: I spoke with the Peace Corps volunteer now working in that area of Vava'u and passed on your message. Ten volunteers will visit CLEVELAND tomorrow and share their experiences with some of the crew. The good relationships you helped establish are continuing.

.

Latest Stories

September 2, 2009

Reflecting on My Time in Iraq

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, Foreign Service Officer Aaron Snipe reflects on his assignment serving with… more

Pages