Two Peruvian officers joined the largest disaster response preparedness exercise in the Indo-Pacific.
Two elements of the Peruvian Armed Forces made their capabilities available to the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet for multinational exercise Pacific Partnership 2019. The annual humanitarian crisis response exercise was conducted between March 1 and June 1 in the Indo-Pacific region.
Peruvian Navy Lieutenant Omar Vicente García, head of Risks and Disasters Rapid Intervention Company of the Engineering and Infantry Battalion, and Lieutenant John Gamarra Bravo, a physician specialized in urology, were the only military representatives from Latin America. More than 500 service members from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, The United Kingdom, and the United States joined efforts for the three-month mission.
The objective of the exercise is to improve interoperability and disaster response capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region. The mission also seeks to provide humanitarian support to the countries visited — in this occasion, the Federated States of Micronesia, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam — and contribute to stability and security in the region.
“During the stops, teams from various areas of expertise build on each other’s experience to shape capability, capacity, and understanding for disaster preparation and response,” U.S. Navy Captain Randy Van Rossum, Pacific Partnership 2019 mission commander, told Diálogo. “If we understand each other, then we can be more effective when disasters hit.”
For the mission, the Pacific Fleet deployed the expeditionary transport vessels USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) and USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) from Naval Base Guam, in the U.S. territory in the western Pacific. Upon arriving on the island, the Peruvian officers, who each boarded a ship, were trained in humanitarian assistance, attack prevention, and countering human trafficking. They also learned about operational rules and safety criteria.
At each stop, the officers met with host nations’ counterparts and personnel from government security agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Mission members provided disaster response and health seminars, as well as disaster preparedness training. They also took part in various projects based on each country’s needs, such as renovating schools and installing drinking water and filter systems, among other activities.
“[In Peru] I’ve taken part in civic actions, medical and dental health campaigns, and illness prevention [activities] in remote areas. Now we have the capability to resolve problems with the minimum required,” Lt. Gamarra told Diálogo while on board the USNS Brunswick. “Working with health professionals of the U.S. Navy is amazing, because of their response capability in case of problems such as tropical diseases.”
Participants also conducted field exercises to review interoperability capabilities. For example, in Tacloban, in the Philippines, service members faced a simulated magnitude 8.5 earthquake, and conducted a medical evacuation exercise as part of a simulated mass casualty drill in Kuching, Malaysia.
“This work is very helpful for Peru,” Lt. Vicente, on board the USNS Fall River, told Diálogo. “By seeing how the other countries carry out their work, I will be able to give the [Peruvian] Navy a report on how we could improve, because the country has similar problems.”
Capt. Van Rossum stressed the importance of multinational missions, such as Pacific Partnership, to reinforce regional cooperation. The exercise also strengthened bonds of friendship between participating forces.
“Each country has different experiences with natural disasters, which brings a variety of capabilities,” said Capt. Van Rossum. “It’s important for our partner nations, such as Peru, to be directly involved in the specific lines of effort during Pacific Partnership 2019. We are fortunate to have two Peruvian officers who are a part of two different lines of effort, medical and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
The December 2004 earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia and killed more than 200,000 people led to the creation of exercise Pacific Partnership in 2006. In its 14th edition, the exercise evolved from a mission to provide direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships.
The several participating nations, which, upon an invitation from the Pacific Fleet share their experiences and knowledge, contribute to mission success. “Having Latin American partner nations to learn the best practices and share experiences in different fields of disaster preparedness and response helps increase cooperation,” Capt. Van Rossum concluded. “We are stronger when we work together.”