U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Christina Olson examines a young boy’s tonsils during the health festival held at Gumum Village in Chini, Malaysia, as part of Pacific Partnership. (RAAF/CPL David Cotton)

KUANTAN, Malaysia - Pacific Partnership 2016 departed Kuantan Aug. 14, marking the completion of Pacific Partnership 2016’s fourth mission stop. This year marks the first year Pacific Partnership has visited the country, although Malaysia has supported Pacific Partnership in various capacities since the mission first began in 2006.

During the visit Malaysian civilian leaders and military worked side-by-side with Pacific Partnership personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Canada the Republic of Korea and the United States to strengthen ties between among partner nations in order to establish an efficient force for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Together, mission personnel and their Malaysian counterparts conducted subject matter expert exchanges in veterinary medicine, nursing, surgeries and engineering.

“We’re here to build partnerships to work with each other as equals,” said Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison, III, Surgeon General, Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery during a visit to the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). “To learn from each other and our partner nations, both those on the mission with us and those that invite us to come and visit them, that we can prepare, train and work together so when something really does happen, we can save lives.”

A small team of Pacific Partnership medical personnel spent three days near Tasik Chini and connected with the local community there through cooperative health outreach programs and participation in a community health fair.

The Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) and Pacific Partnership personnel also came together to discuss humanitarian aid and disaster relief response during a two-day lecture and subject matter expert exchange. Participants discussed case studies, response plans and gender roles during disaster. The event concluded with a live search and rescue exercise (SAREX) off the coast of Kuantan. Participants responded to a simulated distressed vessel resulting from a devastating typhoon in the region.

Pacific Partnership also held a one-day Women, Peace and Security (WPS) seminar with local nurses to highlight the importance of women’s roles during a natural disaster or crisis. WPS emphasized the significance of women taking part in the decision-making process during an emergency and the rights and vulnerability of women and children in the aftermath of a disaster.

U.S. Navy Seabees and Malaysian Royal Engineering Regiment soldiers worked together to complete renovations of two schools near Kuantan. The engineering projects included interior and exterior renovation to one school, while the other received a 130-foot by 115-foot concrete slab in order to better support the movement of foot traffic and to serve as a helicopter landing zone in case of a disaster.

“We have repaired and replaced five drop ceilings, painted about 1,000 square feet, placed two doors, installed five electrical lights and five fans,” said Steelworker 3rd Class Joshua Kolpit, a Seabee assigned to the Tabika Kemas Felda Bukit engineering project.

Kolpit also shared his technique for applying putty to wood pieces with his MAF counterparts.

“Even though there’s a language barrier, we all laugh, we all joke, and we all get frustrated if we can’t hit a nail the first time. It’s a good time,” said Kolpit.

Pacific Partnership 2016 previously completed missions in Timor Leste, the Philippines, and Vietnam before stopping in Malaysia. Simultaneously, a Pacific Partnership 2016 team is in Palau until Aug. 15, led by Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces aboard JS Shimokita (LST 4002). Upon departure from Malaysia and Palau, Pacific Partnership 2016 will make its final stop in Indonesia.