Royal Australian Navy Petty Officer Matthew Marson helps train the local fire fighters at the Wewak Fire Station during the Pupua New Guinea phase of Pacific Partnership 2013. (Royal Australian Navy photo)

WEWAK AND VANIMO, Papua New Guinea - Under the leadership of the Australian Defense Force, members of Pacific Partnership 2013 from Australia, Japan and the United States concluded work in Papua New Guinea, July 6, marking the first time in the mission's eight years that a portion of the mission has been led by a partner nation.

In Papua New Guinea, the Australian Defense Force, and its ship HMAS Tobruk, led the mission with the help of Japanese Self Defense Force ship Yamagiri, while USS Pearl Harbor continued the mission in Tonga and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The three ships are conducting missions in six host nations: Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.

For 18 days Australian, Japanese and U.S. providers worked together to administer medical and dental care, health education, medical training for local healthcare workers and veterinary care. The group also conducted engineering projects such as refurbishing schools and public facilities as well as community relations activities, like book donations.

U.S. Navy Capt. Wallace Lovely, Pacific Partnership mission commander, visited with mission personnel working in Papua New Guinea to assess that phase of the mission.

"What I saw was a community … who was very receptive to capacity building and learning," said Lovely. "I think the mission in Papua New Guinea was a resounding success."

Lovely said that the ultimate measure of success is when someone in a leadership position, who is accountable and responsible for thousands of lives, is now more focused on his or her responsibility.

He saw this happen when the governor of West Sepik Province, where Vanimo is located, immediately reached out to the U.S. Embassy to schedule more training after witnessing the success of subject matter expert exchanges between residents of his township and Pacific Partnership personnel.

Working jointly in Papua New Guinea, planners from Australia and Japan were able to seize on the lessons learned by gaining first-hand knowledge in logistics, manning and leadership roles required in future Pacific Partnership missions.

Royal Australian Navy Cmdr. Leif Maxfield, commander of the Papua New Guinea phase, said the time spent in Papua New Guinea improved the ability of regional partner nations to work cooperatively to respond to any future disasters.

Lovely said that he was impressed with the focused and professional members of the Australian Forces leading the phase of the mission in Papua New Guinea. The mission's future depends on the new concept of partner nations taking the lead on different phases, said Lovely.

"As a partnership, we need to share responsibility to build our coordinated capabilities - this will require continued investment at all levels," said Lovely. "By doing that we can guarantee the life of the mission."

Pacific Partnership is a collaborative effort of military members and civilians from ten partner nations including Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States that improves maritime security through disaster preparedness.

Commander Leif Maxfield directs Chief Petty Officer Nigel Williams ashore in one of HMAS Tobruk's Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel during the Papua New Guinea phase of Pacific Partnership 2013. (Royal Australian Navy photo)