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Growing connections in disaster preparation exercise

Twelve New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel are joining the US Navy ship USS Pearl Harbor, as eight nations combine for an exercise aimed at preparing Indo-Pacific countries’ responses to a large-scale disaster.

01 September, 2023

Over the next four months, they will carry out a range of roles in their areas of expertise, such as physical training instruction, chaplaincy, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, musicians, cultural advisors and dentistry.

They will join nearly 1500 personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Exercise Pacific Partnership takes place each year and was developed as a way to improve on the disjointed humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) response to the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and tsunami. 

This year the New Zealanders are joining the exercise in a staggered fashion for the leg that will take them through the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga.

Royal New Zealand Navy Captain Jon Beadsmoore has been on the exercise staff since July and holds the role of multinational operations coordination cell director.

He is working alongside Flight Lieutenant Stephen Crawford of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, coordinating the participation of international personnel joining the mission.

Captain Beadsmoore said the mission was considerably more wide-ranging than any HADR exercise he had been on before.

He joined the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force ship Shimokita before transferring to the USS Pearl Harbor.  

“Engaging with Fijian, Japanese, United States and New Zealand service people to support resilience building during Shimokita’s mission-stop in Suva has been a very busy but rewarding experience,” he said.

“Building relationships with other nations’ personnel and understanding how they operate is essential when you’re called to assist in a real life humanitarian emergency.”

A highlight of the deployment so far was planting 4000 mangrove seedlings on the banks of a Fijian estuary, where, as the climate changes, the village of Matainoco experiences flooding and salt water contamination of farm land.

Captain Beadsmoore and Flight Lieutenant Crawford joined Fijian, Japanese and United States Navy personnel to plant the mangroves, where the head of the village said many traditional subsistence crops were no longer able to be grown.

Exercise Pacific Partnership 23 is led by United States Navy Captain Claudine Caluori, Commander of Destroyer Squadron Thirty One. Ships involved include the Harpers Ferry class dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor, the Independence class littoral combat ship USS Jackson and Republic of Korea tank landing ship Cheon Ja Bong.