Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12), the seventh annual iteration of the humanitarian exercise begun by the U.S. Navy following the tragic 2004 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra, ended officially when the USNS Mercy departed Sihanoukville, Cambodia on August 11.
The mission to Cambodia was a marvelous example of all of the external personnel on Mercy coordinating seamlessly with our U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh personnel to provide an impressively geographically diverse mission. There is an excellent piece by two PP12 female helicopter pilots, as well as a video clip summarizing efforts in Cambodia, on the PP12 blog site.
Because Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh are four to five hours' drive apart, and some of the mission sites were near Phnom Penh, our two helicopters worked long hours and the pilots, crews and mechanics were outstanding. We also employed a fleet of vans to carry personnel and equipment up and down the two major roads between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. Everyone finished the mission happily exhausted, and Sihanoukville was a pleasant seaside town where people could wind down and have a nice meal when they weren't otherwise engaged.
Many PP12 participants, including myself, flew home from Cambodia following the mission. But most are still aboard the Mercy, steaming towards Guam. Much work remains to be done, by the civilian mariner crew that actually operates Mercy, by the U.S. Navy staff who needs to complete all the requisite reports and briefs to be shared, and by the superb public diplomacy team that continues to produce excellent videos, photos, and stories while Mercy makes her slow transit back home to San Diego.
And even as PP12 returns, PP13 personnel are planning a new mission, visiting new prospective sites in new countries, and preparing for the international video-teleconferences that stretch over many months and are so crucial to the success of Pacific Partnership. As USN personnel like to say, "Fair winds, and following seas," and stay tuned for Pacific Partnership 2013 to the Pacific Island countries.