Capt. James Meyer, right, commodore of Task Force Forager, and Capt. Erich Diehl shake hands with local children during an Independence Day celebration in Kolonia, July 4. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. James Gulliver)

KOLONIA, Pohnpei - The citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the members of Pacific Partnership 2015 celebrated a successful visit to the country with a closing ceremony and Fourth of July celebration in Kolonia.

The celebration, co-hosted by the United States Embassy, featured many of the classic Independence Day staples that many Americans are accustomed – grilled hot dogs, popcorn, lemonade, and face painting.

“What a great way to celebrate the culmination and closing events for Pacific Partnership than at an event like this on the Fourth of July – the day of U.S. Independence,” said Commodore, Task Force Forager, Capt. James Meyer. “It is a day that helps us remember that freedom is not free but something that must be preserved and continually maintained.”

The Military Sealift Command joint high speed vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3), and embarked Task Force Forager, arrived in Pohnpei June 21. Since arriving, the crew hit the ground running with medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and community relations engagements.

“Thirteen days ago today we arrived in FSM, and today we stand proud of what we have achieved together as a team,” said Meyer.

The veterinary team visited more than 40 farms and performed over 120 procedures. The Army/Navy Joint Band under the leadership of U.S. Pacific Fleet Band conducted 19 performances for more than 6,500 people. The U.S. Coast Guard provided boating safety seminars and facilitated search and rescue training and an exercise. The Civil Affairs team conducted disaster risk management workshops along with assessments of infrastructure and disaster vulnerable areas. Additionally, 1,900 FSM locals visited the Millinocket for tours and learned about the Pacific Partnership mission.

See photos in the U.S. Pacific Fleet Pacific Partnership Flickr stream.

“Your presence here in FSM will be known for generations to come,” said Vice President Yosiwo George. “It is a blessing for the people of Pohnpei. Pacific Partnership 15 stands as a symbol of our partnership and friendship and everything that brings us all together. You have demonstrated your commitment to this region – a commitment to partnership building.”

Unlike previous Pacific Partnership missions that conducted mostly direct medical care, Pacific Partnership 15 focused on knowledge exchange and shoulder-to-shoulder direct care with FSM professionals.

“Our intent was to impart knowledge and skills that will last well after the mission is over,” said Meyer. “The Medical Task Force did a phenomenal job meeting this objective. The medical team helped better equip FSM medical professionals and the FSM health care system with the knowledge and information necessary to build capacity to respond to all hazards through engaging approximately 250 FSM medical professionals with subject matter expert exchanges from 19 medical and public disciplines. They also conducted community health and mass medication distribution engagements, and taught multiple lecture series and classes which required hands on practical skills.”

Millinocket departed Pohnpei July 6 and is currently in transit to the Solomon Islands for Millinocket’s third stop of Pacific Partnership 2015.

Millinocket, led by an expeditionary command element from the Navy's 30th Naval Construction Regiment (30 NCR) from Port Hueneme, California, is currently serving as the secondary platform for Pacific Partnership 2015. The primary platform for the mission is the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

Now in its tenth iteration, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region. While training for crisis conditions, Pacific Partnership missions have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals. Additionally, the mission has provided critical infrastructure developments to host nations through the completion of more than 180 engineering projects.