Solomon Island citizens and children tour a landing craft medium (LCM) assigned to the Royal New Zealand ship HMNZS Canterbury (LSL-421) after it came ashore in Vella Aug. 3 to drop off personnel and supplies during Pacific Partnership 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

HONIARA, Solomon Islands - The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) ship HMNZS Canterbury (L421) is serving as flagship for the Solomon Islands phase of Pacific Partnership 2013.

Mission leaders and staff transfered to Canterbury from USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) as the mission got underway, July 29. The ships, along with the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9), are operating throughout the Solomon Islands executing Pacific Partnership 2013's final mission port.

"You can tell a lot about a ship just a few minutes after coming aboard. The energy, excitement and professionalism of the crew on board is unmatched," said U.S. Navy Capt. Wallace Lovely, Pacific Partnership 2013 mission commander. "I've been looking forward to this part of the mission since we initially planned it. We've talked about this Pacific Partnership increasing the involvement of partner nations from the leadership to the execution. A big part of that is embarking aboard Canterbury as the flagship."

Canterbury, an amphibious sealift ship and the only in its class, brings unique capabilities to Pacific Partnership's mission.

"Our strength lies in our ship to shore connection. We've got multiple landing craft and helicopters on board that effectively move people and equipment ashore while the ship remains at sea," said RNZN Cmdr. David Turner, Canterbury's commanding officer. "We're also a very maneuverable ship, we don't need a great deal of sea room to be able to work in the littoral, which makes it easier for resupply personnel ashore."

Pacific Partnership's flag shift to the Canterbury also provides a unique opportunity for U.S. service members to serve aboard an RNZN vessel.

"It's been a very cohesive effort. We've been working together to finalize our schedule of events for the mission in the Solomons," said U.S. Navy Lt. Latisha Robinson. "We're now at the point of executing together. It's been great so far and I'm looking forward to putting our plans into action."

Conducted annually since 2006, Pacific Partnership is the largest disaster response-preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Working at the invitation of each host nation, Pacific Partnership is joined by partner nations that include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.

U.S. Navy Capt. Wallace Lovely, Pacific Partnership 2013 mission commander, and Royal New Zealand Navy Capt. Tony Millar, Pacific Partnership 2013 deputy mission commander, greet media before an interview on the bridge of HMNZS Canterbury, July 29. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

HMNZS Canterbury departs Aukland, July 22, for the Solomon Islands and Pacific Partnership. (Royal New Zealand Navy photo)