HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka - Pacific Partnership 2017 made its initial mission stop in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, March 7, with the arrival of Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4).
This marked the first mission to Sri Lanka in the 12-year history of the annual civil-military operation, and the Pacific Partnership mission in Sri Lanka continues through March 18 and will make follow-on mission stops in Malaysia and Vietnam.
Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) 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.
Participating in this year's Sri Lanka mission are partner military and non-government personnel from the United States, Australia, and Japan.
While in Hambantota, Pacific Partnership personnel will work side-by-side with Sri Lankan medical professionals, participate in civil engineering projects, conduct HA/DR readiness drills, and partner in community engagements.
Lt. Cmdr. Robert Pipkin, the American officer in charge of the Sri Lanka mission, said he was excited about the inaugural arrival of Pacific Partnership to Sri Lanka.
"This mission stop will include engineering projects, medical subject matter expert exchanges, public band performances, and community relations events," said Pipkin. "We aim to learn from each other and develop better ways to work together in this mission, which will better prepare everyone to respond in a crisis or natural disaster."
Pacific Partnership medical personnel will team up with Sri Lankan doctors and nurses to conduct subject matter expert exchanges at Tissamaharama Base Hospital, the General Hospital and Nurse Training School in Hambantota, as well as other local clinics and hospitals. Mission doctors and nurses will also conduct medical clinics in select cities.
"We are excited to be working with our friends in Hambantota and throughout the greater southern region during Pacific Partnership's first visit to Sri Lanka," said Capt. Stanfield Chien, Pacific Partnership mission commander. "We will be closely collaborating alongside our Sri Lankan counterparts conducting numerous medical exchanges, engineering projects, and community events. Our time in Sri Lanka is about building relationships and the capability and capacity to work together for the future."
In addition, local Sri Lankan organizations working together with U.S. Navy civil engineers, will complete renovations of the Divisional Hospital Ambalantota, Wishaka Mahila Preschool, Sri Gunananda Preschool and multiple Maternity and Child Clinic Centers. The U.S. 7th Fleet Band will perform at the Hambantota Beach Park, Galle Fort, Matara, and the Tangalle City Center.
"The United States is ready to help Sri Lanka respond more quickly to humanitarian challenges, and the Sri Lankan people are able to share their valuable lessons learned from past natural disasters," said U.S Ambassador Atul Keshap. "This is a partnership in the truest sense."
Now in its 12th year, Pacific Partnership continues to enhance regional partnerships and host nation relationships through civil-military cooperation, medical exchanges, and intergovernment agency coordination.