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USS Peleliu Pacific Partnership 2007 Mission



Sailors aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5) man the rails as they set sail for Pacific Partnership 2007

Washington D.C. (August 28, 2007) -  The USS Peleliu which launched from San Diego in May of 2007 is wrapping up its humanitarian tour through several countries in Asia and Oceania.  Pacific Partnership is a humanitarian mission that brings together host nation medical personnel, partner nation military medical personnel and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide medical, dental, construction and other humanitarian-assistance programs ashore and afloat in Southeast Asia and Oceania.  Among the nations it visited are the Philippines, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.

The four-month deployment continues the long tradition of U.S. Navy support of humanitarian-assistance operations throughout the world and reflects American compassion for the people of the Western Pacific region with whom Americans share common bonds.

Vice Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, addressed the crew in the ship's hangar prior to the departure from its homeport and spoke to the Sailors about the significance of the deployment and about the pride he felt in sending Peleliu on such an important mission – a mission to ensure improvement of both America's and the host nation partners' quality of life and relationships.

Solomons War Hero Honored

Secretary of Navy Donald C. Winter presents Eroni "Aaron" Kumana with flag from USS Peleliu for his courageous efforts more than 60 years ago

One of the highlights of its tour included a visit with Eronia "Aaron" Kumana in the Solomon Islands.  For Kumana, 85, who calls the Solomon Islands home, the visit aboard the USS Peleliu marked the first time he had ever set foot on a U.S. Navy vessel.  It was not however, his first encounter with the U.S. Navy.

In the summer of 1943, Kumana, serving as a scout for allied forces, was dispatched with his partner by wooden canoe to search for the crew of PT-109, a small U.S. Navy vessel that had been cut in half by an enemy destroyer. Kumana and his partner eventually located the crew of the PT-109, along with their leader -- a young lieutenant junior-grade and future U.S. president by the name of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Dr. Donald C. Winter was present aboard the Peleliu to meet Kumana. "I think it's a remarkable circumstance. This is an individual who has had a very significant role in the history of our nation and the world," Winter said of Kumana.  Winter said it was an honor to spend the day with the man who rescued the future 35th president of the United States.  "It's great to be able to have him on board, to thank him for what he did back then, and to be able to show him how our nation continues to be able to provide support in this area," Winter said. (USAID provided $250,000 in emergency assistance funds to the Solomon Islands after the tsunami in April of 2007.  See story here.

Though originally scheduled to return to shore the same day, Kumana and his sons elected to stay aboard the Peleliu overnight, thus affording scores of Peleliu Sailors and Pacific Partnership embarks, the opportunity to meet Kumana during an evening "ice cream social" event in the ship's hangar bay.
For all that was being said about "the man who rescued Kennedy" throughout the day, Kumana himself said very little. As Kumana doesn't speak English, he communicated with those whom he encountered primarily through smiles, nods of his head, and even some tears of joy after being presented with the American flag. And as the evening wound down, Kumana's son spoke on his father's behalf, saying that his father -- the man who traveled by small wooden boat to rescue another man who had lost his own small boat over half a century ago -- had viewed the day as "special".

"He was on a big ship today," his son said. "He is very happy."

Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

Image of Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

According to Navy news releases, on August 21, the Peleliu Pacific Partnership Team provided medical civil-assistance (MEDCAP) at the Tafunsak government building on Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia.

"It is a great thing that the U.S. is doing here. There are a lot of people here that have needed this help," said Johnathan Alokoa, a legislative member in the city of Tafunsak. "Hopefully this will lead to future humanitarian missions to all of Micronesia."

This is the second of four scheduled MEDCAP's in Kosrae, and Officer in Charge Capt. Yves Nepomuceno likes what he and his twenty person team have in front of them.  "This is a great opportunity for us to help in a place that needs it, and it's the right thing to do," said Nepomuceno.

During this MEDCAP, over 350 patients were seen for medical check-ups and 185 glasses were distributed, but one little boy stood out for the Pacific Partners in Tafunsak.

Just after being seen at the MEDCAP for a case of scabies, the boy went out to play and fell leaving two lacerations on his head.

"He probably could have gone to the hospital, but we had everything we needed here to treat his lacerations," said Lt. Ryan Pomicter, flight surgeon for Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14.

Marshall Islands

marshall Island Map

According to Yokwe Online, the Pacific Partnership Team aboard the USS Peleliu was in the Marshall Islands for the concluding stop of their 4-month humanitarian-aid tour.  The day began with a welcome and groundbreaking ceremony for the Uliga Elementary School Reclamation/Access Road Construction Project to be done by the U.S. Army 84th Engineering Battalion.

Casten Nemra, of the Marshall Islands Office of the Chief Secretary, announced that seven total engineering projects had been confirmed:  Repairs and facility improvements were scheduled for Uliga, Delap, Rairok and Arno Elementary Schools, Marshall Islands High School, and Uliga Public Park. Solar systems for remote medical clinics will be installed on Arno, Aur, Maloelap, and Mili Atolls. The Majuro Reclamation Facility will also receive some refurbishing.

Captain Steve Fitzgerald, of the USN USS Peleliu advance party, told the Marshall Islands Chamber earlier in the month that 150 of ship's crew of 1,700, will be given shore leave each day for approximately ten days here in Majuro.

According to the Marshall Islands Journal, a medical team spearheaded by Dr. Frederick Landro of the USS Peleliu, will do minor surgeries on 96 patients from Ebeye and Majuro on board the ship.

Peleliu's crew includes personnel from public health/preventive medicine; Navy, Army and Air Force medicine; U.S. Public Health Service; and the U.S. Navy Seabees (construction battalions), as well as a fleet surgical team.

Conclusion

USS Peleliu at sea

Secretary of the Navy, Dr. Donald C. Winter in a message for the Sailors of the Peleliu and the entire Pacific Partnership Team summed up his appreciation:  "I'd like to tell them that their efforts are having a significant impact, and that they're recognized not only here, but throughout the United States," he said. "We really appreciate what it is that they're doing, and we want to thank them for enabling this mission to take place."

The USS PELELIU, the final ship in the TARAWA class, bears the name of Peleliu Island in honor of difficult and strategic battles fought in the Palau Islands in the western Pacific region of Micronesia during World War II.

For more on the Pacific Partnership Mission visit this website: http://www.cpf.navy.mil/news_images/Peleliu/index.html