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APIA, Samoa - The amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) arrived in Apia, the first mission port of Pacific Partnership 2013, June 1.
A multinational, multiagency team of U.S. service members, partner nation military and non-governmental organization volunteers are scheduled to work at the invitation of the Samoan people, on a variety of projects to include school renovations, health fairs and water catchment construction.
U. S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jessica Craig will be participating as an optician's assistant helping assess patients' suitability for corrective eyewear.
"I'm a little nervous," said Craig of the mission, "But I'm glad I'm here."
Craig isn't alone when it comes to being excited to begin the mission.
Lt. Jeremy L. Watkins, Operations Officer for Pacific Partnership 2013 said the excitement is palpable, "Everyone in the crew wants to get the mission moving."
Samoa is the first of several scheduled mission ports including: Tonga, Republic of The Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands.
The goal of the mission is to improve security and sustainable development through cooperation with the Oceana region, as well as with Australia and New Zealand. It also aims to ensure freedom of navigation and to address other important regional challenges such as climate change and illegal fishing.
"Every day the planning and integration between all the partners and different branches of service gets better and better and I think we're all learning a lot from each other," said Watkins.
This is the eighth iteration of Pacific Partnership, and it will build on the foundation of previous missions while demonstrating a continued commitment to the Oceania region.
Watkins said Samoa has worked well with the Pacific Partnership planning team.
"We're ready to help grow their capacity to respond to disaster when necessary," Watkins said.
This will be the first Pacific Partnership mission where partner nations lead individual phases. Australia will lead in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand will lead in both Kiribati and Solomon Islands, and the United States will lead in Samoa, Tonga and the Marshall Islands.