U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Luke Berguis teaches search and rescue (SAR) operation procedures to local Marshallese law enforcement officials during a SAR symposium during Pacific Partnership 2019. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyrell K. Morris)

Pacific Partnership 2019 Focuses on Disaster Relief in Marshall Islands

Participants in Pacific Partnership 2019 – the biggest multinational humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exercise – recently conducted a series of exchanges during their mission stop in the Marshall Islands.

The Pacific Partnership mission began in response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters, the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia. Now in its 14th iteration, the mission has evolved from emphasis on direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships and building capacity through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges. Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific.

Subject matter expert exchanges create lasting bonds of friendship and trust that enable the mission to return to countries and build bridges for greater cooperation between the United States, mission partners and host nations.

The first official HADR event of PP19 was an incident command system subject matter expert exchange in Majuro sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and the Office of the Telecommunications Authority , March 11-15.

The incident command system brings a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response, providing a common hierarchy within which responders from multiple agencies can be effective.

“While we can’t control the disasters, we can control how we prepare and react,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Christina Richardson, PP19 HADR team lead. “Collaborative efforts like these promote greater cooperation and partnerships that benefit everyone involved.”

Next, the U.S. Coast Guard hosted a search and rescue exercise  in Majuro, March 20-22. This was a “train the trainer” evolution that began with a planning workshop and culminated with a simulated SAR exercise.

Local government officials from the Marshall Islands National Disaster Management Office, sea patrol and police department were in attendance and in turn traveled to Ebeye the following week to train their Kwajalein counterparts, March 25-26.

“These lessons in interoperability support a collaborative, rapid response to natural disasters in the Marshall Islands,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Luke Carpenter, the officer in charge of the Republic of the Marshall Islands mission, March 11-28.

The final HADR event of this mission stop was a basic first responder symposium in Ebeye, March 27. Local police officers, firefighters, sea patrol, nurses and other first responders attended the event.

The symposium used the exchange of ideas and relationships among the participating countries and organizations to help strengthen response preparedness. Risk management and first responder training were discussed along with case studies from past disasters.

“Trainings like these are important because we are all in the same room learning from each other and going over scenarios so everyone is prepared when a disaster happens,” said Harris Kaiko, Marshall Islands Sea Patrol.

The technical skills exchange focused on enhancing the capabilities of U.S. military forces to work together with their partners from Marshallese government agencies in the event of a natural disaster.

These HADR subject matter exchanges will be a recurring theme of Pacific Partnership 2019 as the mission continues.

Pacific Partnership, now in its 14th iteration, is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Each year, the mission team works collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships in the Indo-Pacific.

Read more at U.S. 7th Fleet

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