“Prepare in calm to respond in crisis.” This was the motto chosen by Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) Commodore Jim Morgan as 200 participants gathered in San Diego on January 30 and 31 for the Mid-Planning Conference (MPC) for PP12. All four host nations -- Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia -- sent high-level delegations, as did many of our partner nations, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, and Thailand.
Pacific Partnership, created in response to the terrible tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 2004, will carry out its seventh annual mission from May to September of this year. The program was developed by the U.S. Navy, but has become a demonstrable example of the “whole of government” approach to American policy in the Pacific, including participation by the Department of State, USAID, NOAA, and all branches of the U.S. military. It strongly supports three key areas identified by Secretary Clinton in her Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) presented in 2010: global health, climate change, and humanitarian assistance.
As in 2010, the USNS Mercy, one of America's premier hospital ships, will serve as the platform for up to 1,000 medical, engineering, technical, and administrative personnel, including several hundred volunteers. Japan will provide a companion ship in two locations -- Philippines and Vietnam -- with complete medical teams, helicopters, and Japanese volunteer organizations. Japan and New Zealand are two countries which have put Pacific Partnership training and cooperation to practical use at home over the past two years, and know how critical these exercises are during non-crisis periods. By agreement, every Pacific Partnership mission will abort the planned exercises and steam for an actual emergency if tragedy should strike the South Pacific during the scheduled mission.
Commodore Morgan and a small team of planners will visit the four host nations beginning the week of February 6, meeting with U.S. Embassy personnel in each country and with national and local leaders in the locations where PP12 will conduct medical, engineering, and other humanitarian exercises and subject matter exchanges (SME). There is still a great deal of work to accomplish before the Mercy sets sail from San Diego at the beginning of May.