Cadets from the University of Malaysia Sarawak walk the ramp of USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) during a tour in Kuching, April 16. (U.S. Navy/Grady T. Fontana)

KUCHING, Malaysia - Pacific Partnership 2017 and Malaysian partners embarked aboard expeditionary fast transport USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) arrived in Kuching, Malaysia, April 14.

As the second and main mission stop in Malaysia, and the third mission stop overall, activities in Kuching will kick off the large focus on humanitarian aid and disaster response, as well civil engineering projects for Pacific Partnership 2017 Malaysia.

According to Lt. j.g. Robin Pepper, the mission's engineering sail-in echelon officer in charge, Kuching is going to be an exciting change of pace for the sail-in team after working only one-on-one with the host nation engineers at their last projects in Sri Lanka.

"Kuching is unique because we have the fly-in echelon from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, the sail-in echelon Seabees from [Amphibious Construction Battalion 1], the Japanese engineers, and the Malaysian engineers all working together," said Pepper. "It's a huge collaboration between all parties and gives us all a big opportunity to excel and learn from one another, which ties directly into the Pacific Partnership mission."

In addition to the various engineering, medical and humanitarian aid disaster response events taking place in Kuching, Pacific Partnership personnel are also looking forward to exploring the island of Borneo and interacting with another side of Malaysian culture.

"My favorite part of Kuala Lumpur was seeing the sights in the city," said Machinist Mate 3rd Class Keali'i Shull. "I had the most fun so far in that port and had a really great experience. I can't wait to see this side of Malaysia and how different it is. To really experience a country, you have to see it from as many perspectives as you can, and I'm hoping to do just that."

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Francisco Sanchez echoed Shull's excitement of getting to know Borneo, except what he's looking forward to most is getting to know the people.

"I'm participating in the humanitarian aid and disaster response field training exercise, and I can't wait to work alongside the Malaysian team," said Sanchez. "I also get to play sports with the Sarawak Scouts this port for a community engagement. It's been really exciting being able to work with and meet people from different cultures throughout the mission. I think sports are a great way to bring people together."

Now in its 12th year, Pacific Partnership continues as the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific and aims to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made-and natural disasters.

Seabees install a drop down ceiling at Sungai Pinang Primary School, an engineering site of Pacific Partnership in Kuching. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Chelsea Troy Milburn)
U.S. Pacific Fleet Band's Pipeline performs before a packed house at Plaza Merdeka in Kuching, as part of Pacific Partnership's community outreach efforts. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Micah Blechner )