DILI, Timor-Leste - Pacific Partnership 2014 kicked off with a ceremony at the Timor-Leste Defense Forces (F-FDTL) headquarters, June 12.
In its ninth iteration, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
The ceremony began with representatives from the F-FDTL and partner nations including Australia, New Zealand, Timor-Leste, and the United States arriving to the music of the U.S. 7th Fleet Band.
Australian Army Lt. Col. Mark Cooper, team lead of the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) in Timor-Leste, welcomed guests before introducing U.S. Navy Capt. Rodney M. Moore, commodore of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, who expressed his gratitude and enthusiasm about the mission.
"I am excited to be back here in Timor-Leste," said Moore. "We are building strong bonds that will endure over time and improve our ability to work together in times of need. Multilateral missions like Pacific Partnership are based on common goals that provide a huge benefit to the security of participating nations by increasing regional stability and capacity, and we have enjoyed working shoulder-to-shoulder with our Timorese partners."
Moore also outlined scheduled projects including medical and dental information exchanges, civil engineering programs and community involvement activities.
The partner nations are also eager to work with each other throughout the scope of the mission.
"The thing I'm looking forward to most is working with our partner nations on the multitude of projects we have going on," said Australian Flight Lt. William Wright, officer in charge of logistics for the DCP in Timor-Leste. "How we work together now will improve our integration and interoperability should a crisis arise."
Service members are also grateful for the opportunity to learn about the customs and traditions of Timor-Leste. Several of the Timorese mentioned how they are looking forward to the good memories community events will bring. "I can't wait to play soccer and have fun with everyone here," said F-FDTL Lt. Butai Harun, a soldier stationed in Dili.
"I am excited to learn about the culture," said Musician 2nd Class Bruce Fisher, a Newport, R.I. native assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet Band. "I want to learn more so I can have a deeper appreciation for this country that is a part of the region where I am stationed."
This year, Pacific Partnership features simultaneous seaborne and airborne phases with the airborne phase focused on Timor-Leste. Medical and engineering personnel will conduct numerous medical, dental and veterinary engagements, along with engineering civil action projects and community relations events. The seaborne phase is a Japanese-led mission and is scheduled to visit Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.
"America's future is very much intertwined with the Asia-Pacific region, and President Obama has made a strategic commitment to Asia. We want to deepen our partnerships and support regional stability and democratic development. People-to-people engagement underpins all of these goals, and people-to-people engagement is what Pacific Partnership is all about," said U.S. Embassy Chargé d'Affaires Scott B. Ticknor.