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NORTH SULAWESI, Indonesia (NNS) - An opening ceremony was held in Manado to highlight the start of Pacific Partnership 2012 in Indonesia June 1.
The festivities began with a parade that featured service members from host nations, partner nations, and civilians representing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in conjunction with members of the Indonesian military.
"It was incredible getting to participate in the parade today," Gabriel El-Swaify, a civilian from the University of Hawaii said. "Just walking side-by-side with citizens of our host nation amplified the tremendous feeling of partnership this mission brings with it."
The parade featured music from the Pacific Partnership Band, a passing of military honors and speeches from both mission and community leaders.
"The parade was a huge success," said El-Swaify. "We were able to integrate everyone into a very colorful and exciting performance that I will remember for the rest of my life."
After the opening ceremony guests were invited to board Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) for a reception on the flight deck.
"It is very important to do receptions," Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kenneth Conine said. "Being able to spend time getting to know the people we are here to help is one of the most important aspects of building the partnerships we need to do this mission and others like it."
While in Indonesia, Pacific Partnership 2012 is scheduled to conduct numerous medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civil action projects as well as sporting and community service events on the islands of Manado, Siau, Sangihe and Talaud; all in the province of North Sulawesi.
More than 1,000 service members and civilians from numerous host and partner nations will provide a wide range of services during Pacific Partnership's stay in Indonesia.
"I am going to be part of our medical team in Indonesia," said Conine. "I will be seeing patients, working in the laboratory and helping out the pharmacy technicians preparing medications."
Conine went on to say he was very excited to be in Pacific Partnership 2012's first mission port and ready to work with the medical staff of Indonesia.
"I had a blast tonight with our host nation counter parts," said Conine. "More than ever I am looking forward to being here and excited about the great work we are going to do."
Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic action mission designed to work by, with and through host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build partnerships and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters.
For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.