Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) has arrived in Cambodia, the final host nation for this year's mission. American Charge d'affaires Jeff Daigle welcomed participants at the opening ceremony on July 29 in Sihanoukville and emphasized PP12's contribution to overall USG efforts in the kingdom. Rear Admiral Russell Penniman and Vice Admiral Tea Vinh spoke for the U.S. Navy and Royal Cambodian Ministry of Defense respectively. Vice Admiral Vinh offered his country's appreciation for both the initial Pacific Partnership visit to Sihanoukville in 2010 and the current mission.
Transportation logistics is the key challenge to the Cambodian effort, as PP12 will operate along two major corridors running between the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia's second city, and the capital of Phnom Penh about five hours to the northeast. PP12's two SH-60 helicopters have been working steadily since our arrival, moving personnel and material from and to USNS Mercy. It is impossible to overstate the importance of helicopters during the initial stages of any humanitarian assistance mission, so their extensive use here in Cambodia is excellent training for both the air crews and PP12 personnel.
An added area of focus for Pacific Partnership during the last two missions has been reef management, fisheries, and environmental issues. While in Vietnam, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) offered a course in fisheries management, a critical issue for most of our host countries. An interagency partner since 2011, NOAA has conducted two one-week intensive courses (in Timor-Leste in 2011 and Vietnam in 2012). The course in Vinh, Vietnam, brought together 22 local employees of different government agencies, with a current or future responsibility for managing coastal waters in the Vinh area. NOAA experts shared their perspective on promotion of sustainable fisheries, and the prevention of lost economic potential associated with overfishing, declining species and degraded fish habitats. As in all subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) provided during Pacific Partnership, there was significant sharing of methodology and expertise among the participants. NOAA hopes to continue annual participation in the foreseeable future.