By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs
DILI, Timor-Leste (NNS) -- The Pacific Partnership 2011(PP11) team departed Dili, Timor-Leste after completing the fourth phase of the mission, June 25.
Amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7), the flagship for PP11, conducted humanitarian assistance /disaster response (HA/DR) operations in Timor-Leste with civilian volunteers and military representatives from four of the U.S. service branches, as well as servicemembers from Australia, Canada, Spain, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.
The multinational team engaged in community service, medical, dental, engineering, and veterinary civic action projects. Nearly 11,000 Timorese received treatment at the medical availabilities where host nation medical professionals worked alongside the PP11 team.
President Jose Ramos-Horta attended the departure reception aboard Cleveland, and offered his thanks to the PP11 team for their performance.
"We hope you will return to our country as soon as possible," he said.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet sponsored mission is aimed at improving quality of life for the residents of Timor-Leste and all host nations while enhancing interoperability between host and partner nations.
"Whether we are working together to help disaster victims, or building a prosperous Timor-Leste, the relationships built during Pacific Partnership are the foundation for a peaceful future," said Ambassador Judith R. Fergin, U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste has been a Pacific Partnership mission port four out of six years since the mission began in 2006.
"Our repeat visits in Timor-Leste are having a long-lasting impact on the country," said U.S. Navy Capt. Jesse A. Wilson, mission commander of PP11 and Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23, during a talk he had with 150 students who attended a two-day training session provided by the PP11 medical contingent at Universidade de Paz. "Our mission in this part of the world continues to evolve, as we fine-tune our skills, improve interoperability with partner and host nations, engage in sustainable quality of life projects, and continue to build our relationship with countries in this region."
In addition to seeing nearly 11,000 medical and dental patients, the medical contingent filled 9,151 prescriptions, gave out 5,894 pairs of glasses, and cared for 284 animals all during 27 events at six different medical, dental and veterinary civic action projects spanning across eight of the thirteen districts in the island nation.
"We deployed a wide variety of medical experts working together to provide the best medical care possible for the Timorese people," said Cmdr. Michael Smith, director of medical operations for Pacific Partnership. "Personnel and resources were managed efficiently by our leadership; because of that, we were able to provide close to 11,000 people with medical care."
The engineering team, comprised of U.S. Navy Seabees and Australian Sappers, completed two engineering projects including refurbishing the "Gedung Serba Guna Matahari Terbit (GMT)" gym, which is part of the Olympic training center for the island nation.
The team of experts poured new concrete floors, sealed the roof, painted the entire structure, landscaped the exterior of the building, and remodeled the entire electrical system. They also provided Becora, Timor-Leste with a 10,000 liter water tank which will add much-needed increased water capacity to the local village.
"The repairs to the GMT gym will benefit the youth of Timor-Leste by providing them with a safe place for exercise and play," said Lt. Michael Sardone, officer in charge of civil engineering for Pacific Partnership 2011. "It also doubles as an evacuation center in the event of a natural disaster and was ineffective in that capacity until the recent refurbishment."
Multinational servicemembers also had the opportunity to interact with the people of Dili through charity, sports and community service projects, to include participation and support during the second annual Dili City of Peace marathon.
"Taking the time to come see the Timorese people in their element gives our team members an opportunity to see a different side of the people they're helping," said Lt. Phillip Ridley, PP11 Chaplain. "At community service projects, the host nationals aren't just patients who might need a specific treatment. These are people who deserve our care and compassion as human beings."
Pacific Partnership worked together with various charities, including Project Handclasp, the Navy's worldwide outreach program, to deliver more than 70 pallets of medical supplies, sports balls, school supplies, water filters, and personal hygiene items to the people of Timor-Leste.
"The donated items were made available by the generosity of the American people," Ridley said. "However, it was important to ensure that the donated items were things they could replenish on their own or maintain themselves."
By developing sustainable improvements in the quality of life with the Timorese, PP11 is able to enhance Timor-Leste's ability to operate as a partner in times of crisis.
Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance initiative sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, aimed at improving interoperability between host and partner nations. This year, Pacific Partnership has completed its mission in Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste. It will continue on to the Federated States of Micronesia, the final mission port for PP11.
During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 241,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 15 countries.