Japan, U.S. Ships Partner in Vietnam
QUY NHON, Vietnam - Members of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the United States Navy have come together to provide medical care to the people of Vietnam as part of Pacific Partnership 2010.
Sailors from the JDS Kunisaki (LST 4003) and her embarked medical team and NGOs have joined partner nation, non-governmental organizations, and service members from the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) to take part in Pacific Partnership 2010, the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government organizations, host nations, partner nations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.
“We have a very similar Maritime Strategy to that of the United States,” said Japanese Army Maj. Toshihiro Yamasaki, joint medical plans and operations officer for the Ministry of Defense in Japan. “We want to work with other nations in this region to help stabilize the Pacific.”
Pacific Partnership was created after the Tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004. After the devastation caused in Southeast Asia, the U.S. Navy wanted to create an opportunity to return to the Pacific region to build upon the relationships that were established during the aftermath of the natural disaster.
Through the years, Pacific Partnership has grown to include non-governmental organizations and partner nations, who support to Pacific Partnership's motto of "Prepare in calm to respond in crisis." During the Pacific Partnership 2010’s visit to Vietnam, Mercy crew members from all four military services and partners from six nations and eight non-governmental organizations will conduct medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civic action programs across the Binh Dinh Province.
Japan is providing the largest partner nation support to Pacific Partnership in Vietnam. Living with the same natural disasters as their neighbors in Southeast Asia, Japan understands the importance of these missions.
"In Southeast Asia we have a lot of natural disasters, like typhoons, earthquakes and floods," said Japanese navy Lt. Tobita Mori, a periodontist with the Kunisaki. "Having missions like Pacific Partnership gives us the opportunity to train. We are prepared to react to real disasters after having performed on missions like these."
Along with the doctors and dentists on the Mercy, the Kunisaki’s medical team brings more than 30 medical professionals to assist at the Nhon Binh and Hai Cang medical treatment sites in Binh Dinh Province. Each medical site is expected to see more than 500 patients a day, with medical assistance provided in the form of optometry, dentistry, physical therapy and general medicine. On top of the training opportunities for their doctors, Pacific Partnership also gives both Japan, partner nations, U.S. and Vietnam a chance to work together and to learn from one another.
"This mission strengthens our ability to work with other countries and their languages," said Yamasaki. "We build relationships with the local people during peacetime, and that face-to-face interaction builds on our ability to work together in the future."
"To work with the U.S. Navy on PP10 is not only about medical activities, it is also about the cooperation between different militaries and different countries," agreed Japanese navy Lt. Tetsufumi Suda, a psychiatrist aboard with the Kunisaki. "We are cooperating with the U.S. and the people of Vietnam, it is important to build these relationships for future humanitarian disaster response."
Along with providing medical support, the crew members of the Kunisaki are also participating in community service events to introduce the people of Vietnam to Japanese culture. Along with a Japanese Long Gauge performance, there are also classes on origami - the Japanese art of paperfolding - and the making of bamboo helicopters, known as “taketonbo.”
“We wanted to introduce our culture to the Vietnamese, so they could learn more about us,” said Japanese Lt. Toru Yoshikawa, the navigator on the Kunisaki. “We were excited to share our culture with them and they seemed to enjoy it very much, they gave us a big hand.”
Ultimately, Pacific Partnership is proving to be a learning experience for all involved. From medicine to origami, Japan, Vietnam, other partner nations, and the United States are engaging one-on-one, resulting in the development of friendships and partnerships.
“I am very grateful for this experience,” said Suda. “This is a great experience for me and for JSDF, and we a grateful to be here and offer treatment to the people of Vietnam.”