Greetings from Pohnpei! This island is truly a gem of the Pacific, with beautifully rugged terrain and a welcoming populace that is familiar with and appreciative of the U.S. military and our partner nations. As I am sure many of you know, Micronesians serve proudly in our Armed Services. Just today I had the privilege to attend an enlistment ceremony for 24 of the newest United States Army Soldiers. It’s truly an honor to be here working alongside these longtime American friends and brethren.
For my second island of Pacific Partnership 2015, I am fortunate to play the role of the Advanced Engineer for my team of Seabees from Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE currently aboard the USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3). They are salty after finishing up excellent work on two schools in Kiribati that impacted well over 1,000 elementary and middle school children and I am continually amazed by their work ethic and dedication to not only complete their project tasking but provide tangible benefits outside construction work. They have shown the ability to mesh with local volunteers, make command decisions on the jobsite, and even direct Pacific Partnership leadership on proper painting techniques! This will certainly continue during our two school rehabilitation projects in Pohnpei and throughout the rest of our Pacific Partnership mission.
As for the rest of the Advanced Team that flew ahead of the ship, the efficient and proactive coordination with the local government and community is astounding and a thing to behold. We all play a small part, and together our determined team is preparing for the event of the year in Pohnpei that will cross nationalities, cultures, generations, and lifestyles.
This is my second trip to Pohnpei and I can only say great things about the island and the community spirit that its people exude. While traveling to project sites, asking for directions, and popping in hardware stores, and restaurants, I have continually been approached and welcomed. For anyone that has spent time in Hawaii, Guam, or other central Pacific islands, Spam is at the heart of many dishes and is in fact a celebrated source of protein. In regards to that preface, one genuine and comical compliment I have received from a Micronesian after inquiring if he had dealt with U.S. Navy Seabees was an immediate interjection of – “Seabees are like Spam!” Noticing the look of surprise on my face, he quickly clarified, “That is a very good thing!” Regardless, it made me reconsider the Spam omelet every restaurant here offers, though I have yet to, erm, indulge.
I am proud of what we are doing to strengthen relationships in the Central Pacific. Through Medical, Dental, Veterinarian, Disaster Relief, Communications, and (of course) Engineering outreaches and exchanges, we create a bond with culturally wealthy nations that is extremely important for regional stability.
I miss my wife and I cannot imagine being out here without the ability to communicate with her, my family, and my friends. If anyone reading this has friends or family serving, send them an email or call them if you are able. Your support is what enables us to work that little bit harder and is the impetus to Airmen, Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers that are making a huge difference around the world.