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Pacific Partnership boosts humanitarian and disaster response, security and stability


Pacific Partnership 24-1 recently concluded a 16-day mission in Palau, including providing medical and dental care, as well as engineering, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

The United States-led Pacific Partnership originated in response to a December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia and has evolved from direct care to enhancing partnerships. It is the largest annual, multinational HADR preparedness mission in the Indo-Pacific, working with host and partner nations to enhance interoperability and disaster response capabilities, and increase regional security and stability.

The Palau mission included Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Sailors and Soldiers from Australia, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

The U.S.-led Pacific Partnership, now in its 19th iteration, visited Palau in December 2023 and January 2024, with personnel performing thousands of medical procedures and exams, including surgeries, aboard the USNS Mercy and at Belau National Hospital in Koror. The mission also included veterinary services at Koror State Animal Shelter.

“A foundational goal of Pacific Partnership is working side-by-side with local partners to build medical and host-nation capacity,” U.S. Navy Capt. Brian Quin, mission commander, said in a news release. “We did just that here in Palau, and I am proud of the work Palauans and our mission team accomplished in a short amount of time.”

The centerpiece of the mission is the USNS Mercy, which anchored off the state of Koror. The hospital ship has 12 operating rooms, 1,000 patient beds, radiological services, a dental clinic, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, optometry facilities, CT scanning equipment and an oxygen-producing facility. It is “a floating medical marvel [that] transformed into a haven of hope for countless Palauans,” the Island Times newspaper reported.

During the mission that wrapped up in January 2024, Pacific Partnership personnel performed 1,802 dental procedures, including exams, extractions and fluoride treatments; distributed more than 1,419 prescription eyeglasses and 1,442 sunglasses; and performed 80 surgeries aboard USNS Mercy and at Belau National Hospital in Koror.

“These are medical procedures and assistance that would have cost individuals hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars — especially for the surgeries. Thank you very much,” the office of Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr. posted on Facebook.

Medical care was just part of the partnership’s fourth visit to the North Pacific island nation of about 20,000 people. There were training sessions at the Belau hospital, veterinary care at the Koror State Animal Shelter and an HADR workshop.

U.S. Navy Seabees, meanwhile, built a communal chicken coop so residents would have fresh eggs. Additionally, a U.S. Coast Guard team, including two marine science technicians, a maritime law enforcement specialist and a liaison officer, visited four Palauan states for safety workshops with Palau State Rangers, fishers and boaters. Attendees received safety checklists, whistles and signaling mirrors.

The U.S. Pacific Partnership Band, including musicians from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the Royal Australian Navy and the U.S. Navy, performed seven community concerts, including a Christmas Eve performance.

Pacific Partnership personnel painted the surface of the Palau National Olympic Committee’s outdoor basketball court ahead of a three-on-three tournament with residents.

“Basketball is an international sport that transcends culture and language barriers,” Senior Chief Petty Officer Eric Zimmermann, Multi-National Operations Center Director for Pacific Partnership 24-1, said in the news release. The event “created an opportunity to build lasting connections and friendships between our Sailors and local Palauans.”

Palau was the most recent stop on the mission, which is in its 19th iteration. Pacific Partnership 24-1 also visited the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the Solomon Islands.

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