By Capt. James Meyer
Deputy Mission Commander Pacific Partnership 2015
The men and women on Joint High Speed Vessel 3, USNS Millinocket, arrived on Tarawa atoll in the Republic of Kiribati on June 2.
Tarawa is a beautiful place located just over one degree above the equator. The water and sky produce more different shades of blue than I could have imagined. The natural beauty of the area is matched by the friendliness of the people who greeted us with smiles and who would give you their last coconut to display their hospitality.
Kiribati was our first stop on a three-month mission across the Pacific which also includes stops in the
Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Philippines, and Vietnam.
Since our arrival to Tarawa our Task Force of 120 personnel has been busily working with our host nation partners providing medical, dental, veterinarian, engineering, and community outreach engagements to help with the country’s needs while building partnerships to improve disaster recovery and response capability.
Our combined and joint adaptive force package aboard Millinocket is called Task Force Forager after Operation Forager in the Mariana and Palau Islands in World War II which the Seabees and my command, the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, played a prominent role. I have been extremely pleased and impressed how our diverse Task Force has come together as a team in such a short period of time. Our joint team includes Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps members and even includes fly in elements of the Coast Guard. Our combined team includes six personnel aboard from Australia and eight personnel from New Zealand. While our key planners have been coordinating our mission for nearly six months, our entire team met for the first time in Hawaii just 48 hours prior to getting underway to Kiribati.
During our five day transit from Pearl Harbor to Tarawa we quickly developed into a cohesive team without a single hiccup. Not only has our Task Force developed strong bonds, we have also integrated seamlessly with the 26 civilian mariners operating the Joint High Speed Vessel. I attribute this spectacular team development to the strong leadership of our service and functional leaders as well as everyone’s enthusiastic excitement to support this humanitarian mission knowing they will make a difference in many people’s lives.
Our transit from Honolulu to Tarawa provided us truly “fair winds and following seas” allowing for a comfortable ride for many of us non-ship board expeditionary Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airman. The smooth seas augmented by some great galley chow kept spirits high and allowed us to be fully prepared when we arrived in Tarawa. On our day of arrival to Tarawa everyone “turned to” quickly setting up the ship for a Pacific Partnership opening ceremony which included the President of Kiribati, First Lady, and many of his ministers and secretaries. We received a very warm welcome from them. The event was a great way to kick of our events in Kiribati.
I look forward to our continued great work making a positive difference in people’s lives while promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Region. Continue to follow us across the Pacific on social media as we provide updates on our mission and observations from the ground, and at sea.