Task Force Oceania demonstrates U.S. commitment to Pacific islands region
The United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) continues to forge strong relationships with the Pacific islands region to advance security across the Indo-Pacific.
The command uses a whole-of-government approach to design, review and implement overseas humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and civic aid projects in the Pacific islands in conjunction with civilian populations, host-nation governments and the U.S. State Department. To date, USINDOPACOM has completed more than 200 projects worth U.S. $17.4 million in the region to provide everything from medical and cleaning supplies to generators and sanitation equipment.
The U.S. Army stood up Task Force Oceania in 2020 to bolster the U.S. presence in the region as part of USINDOPACOM’s whole-of-government approach. The task force aims to be an information hub for the Pacific islands and to help increase the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of partners working in the region.
“The U.S. and the Pacific island countries in Oceania share many fundamental values around democracy and a spiritual approach to human existence that embeds respect for the individual within a strong social context,” said Col. Blaise Zandoli, Task Force Oceania commanding officer. “Our shared values and mutually beneficial practical connections make partnerships a natural outcome.”
Headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, Task Force Oceania consists of Soldiers from all components of the U.S. Army, including active-duty, Army Reserve and National Guard, with the purpose of engaging and cultivating meaningful and lasting relationships across Pacific island nations through senior leader engagements, exercises, conferences, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response planning. To foster partnerships and develop solutions tailored to each host nation, the task force has been deploying two-Soldier teams, trained in civilian affairs, to key Pacific islands.
In 2020, the task force deployed Soldiers to Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste and plans to support Pacific islands across the region in 2021. (Pictured: Task Force Oceania’s Maj. Ruby Gee, left, meets with Madre Angelita, an orphanage coordinator, to distribute supplies in Laga, Timor-Leste, in October 2020).
Task Force Oceania has already participated in over 85 engagements with the island nations that it deployed to as well as the Federated States of Micronesia and Guam including bilateral and multilateral exchanges, civic engagements, subject matter expert exchanges, site assessment and support to ongoing exercises and operations throughout the region. Highlights include COVID-19 outreach, Operation Christmas Drop, Women’s Peace and Security engagements and military-to-military engagements.
Task Force Oceania marked its first year of operating with Soldiers on the ground with an after-action review symposium in late April 2021. Called the 1st Annual E Pili Ana I Ka Moana:
Capacity Building Collaboration Symposium, the conference strove to consolidate lessons learned from key actors and facilitate planning and cooperation among various actors aligned with U.S. government operations and objectives in the Pacific islands region.
The symposium, which ran April 26-30, provided a forum to foster collaboration among Task Force Oceania, joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational partners. It also allowed for an information exchange among organizations working to build capacity in the region, such as the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the University of Hawaii and the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance.
Civil affairs officers who recently returned from the Pacific islands shared insights, informed future task force deployments and highlighted areas of future collaboration. Discussion centered on building capacity in areas such as the environment, economics, traditional knowledge, governance, education and public health.
IMAGE CREDIT: SPC. LYDIA MCKINNEY/U.S. ARMY