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July 18, 2013
Supporting neighb rs
DEFENCE personnel are help-
ing improve the lives of people
across the Pacific as key contribu-
tors to Pacific Partnership, the
US-sponsored humanitarian and
civic assistance mission.
This year Pacific Partnership is
delivering medical, dental, veteri-
nary, explosive remnants of war dis-
posal and engineering aid to Papua
New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga,
the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and
Solomon Islands. About 100 medi-
cal and engineering personnel from
Australia, the US and Japan are
embarked in landing ship HMAS
Tobruk for the mission in PNG.
Director General Joint Exercise
and Evaluation Branch AIRCDRE
Ken Quinn said the support from the
Wewak Provincial Authority in the
lead up and preparation to this year's
program had been outstanding.
"Papua New Guinea is Australia's
closest neighbour, and the ADF
acknowledges and remembers the
assistance and sacrifice of the people
of Wewak and the region in WWII,"
AIRCDRE Quinn said.
"So it is significant that Australian,
US and Papua New Guinea defence
force members are working together,
as we have worked together alongside
each other for many years.
"The Spirit of Pacific Partnership
is about working collaboratively to
build capacity, community and help our
Australian, US, Japanese and
Canadian military medical practitioners
are training local doctors and nurses
and running medical clinics and basic
health awareness fairs.
Deputy Chief of Joint Operations
RADM Steve Gilmore said as well
as embarking specialist medical and
engineering personnel, Tobruk's ship's
company was assisting the townships in
Vanimo and Wewak which have a com-
bined population of about 40,000.
"Volunteers from Tobruk's crew
have been hard at it for two weeks now
refurbishing sport facilities, memori-
als, public buildings and assisting
with bringing awareness of health
and hygiene issues to locals," RADM
FLTLT David Liu is a dentist posted
to RAAF Base Williamtown in both
2 Expeditionary Health Squadron and
Williamtown Health Centre. He joined
the Air Force in 2011 after graduat-
ing from the University of Melbourne's
"We are providing simple extrac-
tions, fillings and cleaning," he said.
"We have brought consumables with
A healthy impact
LENDING A HAND: Clockwise
from left, Manam Island; security
policeman SGT Darren Powell; dentist
FLTLT David Liu; crew on HMAS
Tobruk watch a local fisherman off
Wewak; pharmacy officer FLGOFF
Stuart Benson with Japanese Navy
pharmacist LCDR Yusuke Kazama.
Photos: LAC David Cotton
a view to improve oral health and
awareness. We are integrating with
American, Japanese and local dental
providers to improve interoperability
and exchange information.
"It's hot and humid here so the
doctors are seeing a lot of different
conditions. It's hard work, but we are
all having a good time."
Pharmacy officer FLGOFF
Stuart Benson, of 3 Aero Medical
Evacuation Squadron at RAAF Base
Richmond, said it had been a great
"I have visited the hospital phar-
macy and provided some education --
and been educated myself -- regarding
pharmacy supply, clinical pharmacy,
and antibiotic stewardship," he said.
"I've learnt enough Tok Pisin to
be able to talk to the locals about
their medicines, and seen some con-
ditions which we would never see in
Australia, including leprosy, malaria
and filariasis (a parasitic disease)."
Security policeman SGT Darren
Powell said it had been great to
enhance his skills.
"My main role within Pacific
Partnership was that of force pro-
tection of the visiting contingent,"
"It has been a great experience
working alongside an array of ADF
The ADF contribution to Pacific
Partnership this year also includes
USS Pearl Harbor and an Australian
National Command Element on
board HMAS Tobruk.
ADF medical and engineering
personnel are also aboard the USS
Pearl Harbor -- deploying to Samoa,
Tonga and the Marshall Islands --
and HMNZS Canterbury which will
provide aid to Kiribati and Solomon
The ADF has been involved in
every Pacific Partnership mission
since it started in 2006 and has visit-
ed around 20 countries, treated more
than 400,000 patients and built more
than 180 engineering projects.
Pacific Partnership 2013 ends on
I've learnt enough Tok Pisin to talk
to locals about medicines and seen
conditions we don't see in Australia like
leprosy, malaria and parasitic diseases.
-- FLGOFF Stuart Benson, pharmacy officer
PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE: FLTLT Joshua Bamford makes learning
about health fun for children at the community health fair in Vanimo.
Photo: LAC David Cotton
LEUT Ryan Zerbe
FOR two Air Force environmental
health officers (EHO), deploying
to PNG has been an ideal chance
to help improve the health of local
FLTLT Josh Bamford and
FLGOFF Joel Pollock are currently
deployed on Pacific Partnership
2013, in the townships of Wewak
and Vanimo in PNG.
They are the only EHOs de-
ployed and have been busy working
at local hospitals and schools to
provide health education to resi-
dents of the two townships.
The pair sailed to PNG in HMAS
Tobruk in early June before com-
mencing work in Wewak.
FLTLT Bamford said the experi-
ence has been eye-opening and he
was learning a lot.
"We've moulded our approach to
what's here and what's needed to
improve the health of the communi-
ties, particularly through preventive
medicine," he said.
"The combined experiences of
the ADF and the partner nations
we're working with have allowed us
to have a stronger impact than if we
were here alone.
"It's good to learn how culture
and limited resources can play a
part in how we work in the Pacific
region so in the event of a disaster
we know how we can best help."
For FLGOFF Pollock the expo-
sure to working in an operational
environment has been interesting.
"I've been involved in public
health workshops with local nurses,
community health workers and local
environmental health staff raising
awareness of health matters, par-
ticularly for people isolated in the
rural communities here," he said.
"We've been focussing heavily
on public health issues like com-
municable diseases vector-borne
illnesses such as malaria, which
are serious problems here. We
have found preventative health
advice is important in rural and iso-
lated communities that have found
new and inventive ways to use their
mosquito bed nets for fishing.
"We're aiming to drive home the
importance of preventative health
and change those behaviours.
"Educating children and health
professionals about water quality
and food safety is also important."
FLGOFF Pollock has served as
an EHO since 2010 after transfer-
ring from Security Police.
He has participated in exercises
within Australia, but said his first
overseas deployment as an EHO
has been an experience to help him
build on his skills.
FLTLT Bamford and FLGOFF
Pollock will return to Australia with
HMAS Tobruk in late July.
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