SANTA RITA, Guam -- After a short
stop on Guam to take on participants and supplies, USNS Richard E.
Byrd (T-AKE 4) left the island June 17 to bring medical, dental and
veterinary care, and engineering support to five allied island
nations in the Pacific.
"This is the first time Byrd has ever been assigned to a
humanitarian assistance mission such as this," said Byrd Commanding
Officer, Capt. Robert H. Jaeger. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity. Of all the missions that a ship could be assigned, this
is the most personally rewarding for each crew member."
The four-month humanitarian mission will help residents in Samoa,
Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.
Capt. Andrew Cully, Partnership 2009 mission commander, said for the
last several months, his team has worked with the governments of the
host nations to ensure they are prepared to provide the care and
Various national and international programs are participating in
this year's mission, including Project Hope, the Loloma Foundation,
International Aid and the Shriners.
In addition, engineers from New Zealand, Australia and Canada will
refurbish buildings including schools and clinics and will execute
water catchment projects.
Capt. Corey Felix, a dentist with the Canadian Forces Dental
Services, said several of his peers have been on previous Pacific
Partnership tours and said it was a wonderful experience.
Spc. Roman Blas, a food inspector with Western Pacific District
Veterinary Command, said he has been on humanitarian missions, but
Pacific Partnership will be a first for him as he has never been on
a mission with as much international presence and a wide scope of
"I'm really excited and looking forward to doing what I can to help
others," said Blas.
"Pacific Partnership is a great opportunity to learn how other
professionals, other nations and other branches of our own military
do things," said Lt. Cmdr. David Fletcher, Western Pacific Guam, who
was at the pier along with other coworkers to wish Blas farewell.
"These types of coordinated efforts are extremely important because
not only do they provide different services to people but they teach
our different branches and different countries how to communicate
effectively to complete a mission successfully."
Pacific Partnership 2009 is the fourth in a series of annual U.S.
Pacific Fleet humanitarian civic assistance missions.
Personnel supporting the mission are actively contributing to the
nation's Maritime Strategy efforts, which call for the security of
America and its citizens, the application of seapower to ensure the
protection of America's way of life, and a strengthened partnership
Pacific Partnership 2009 is a humanitarian civic assistance mission
that began in 2006 and continues a working relationship between the
United States government, partners in the region and