By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Pineda, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Public Affairs
REPUBLIC OF PALAU (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard 7th Fleet's command flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), completed more than 2,400 hours of humanitarian assistance projects from July 28-29 at several locations in Palau as part of Pacific Partnership 2010.
"Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional partnerships with host nations and partner nations," said Capt. Rudy Lupton, Blue Ridge's commanding officer, during opening ceremonies, which were held at the Ngarachemayong Cultural Center in Koror, Palau, July 26.
By July 29, Pacific Partnership volunteers from Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet have completed six community service (COMSERV) events, including beach cleanups, school maintenance and monument restoration projects.
Along with COMSERVs, Blue Ridge's medical and dental teams have treated more than 1,300 patients, while providing subject matter expert exchanges on topics ranging from neonatal mortality to oral hygiene.
"I think it is a wonderful experience for our Health Services Department to render medical and dental services," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Laregen Valdez.
In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, Pacific Partnership 2010 will also provide valuable experiences for service members to learn from civilian experts. This experience will help ensure the U.S. military is able to rapidly respond in support of emergency relief efforts in the future.
"Pacific Partnership has proven itself to be an invaluable opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance, while enabling those involved to become better prepared to respond effectively to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis," said Lupton.
Sailors have also had a unique opportunity to experience the rich culture and diversity that Palau and its residents have to offer.
"Being part of this mission is a great way to help people, and at the same time it opens up an opportunity to learn more about their culture and their way of living," said Valdez.
The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors, Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nation and partner nations. While this was Palau's first visit by Pacific Partnership, Lupton believes that much more will be gained through the visit than just providing assistance to those in need.
"We hope that the friendships and relationships we create in the coming days will be sustained long into the future," said Lupton.
Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.