Since 2015, expeditionary fast transport ships have proven crucial to the success of Pacific Partnership.
This year’s mission features the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) for stops in the Republic of Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia as the platform to transport the Pacific Partnership team, whose goal is to enable regional resilience for effective disaster response.
Civilian mariner (civmar) Cory Holland, second officer onboard Brunswick, was a member of the 2015 Pacific Partnership team, the first iteration to feature an EPF.
“Since 2015, both Military Sealift Command (MSC) and the military have gotten to know the EPF much better, allowing for more effective planning and more efficient missions,” he said. “We utilize the EPF capabilities better and enable more adaptive missions, like we’ve already seen this year.”
The Pacific Partnership team, which recently departed the Marshall Islands, expanded the scope of the original PP19 mission to include visits to the outer Micronesian islands, providing support to the people of the Federated States of Micronesia in close coordination with local authorities, the U.S. Embassy, and USAID.
MSC civmar Capt. Adam Streeper, ship’s master, explained the opportunity this year’s mission has afforded his ship and crew.
“The mission expansion in FSM has shown that our civilian mariners are ready to flex. Due to this crew’s ability to adapt around the ever-changing mission set of the EPF class, Brunswick is able to deliver in ways that other ships cannot,” said Streeper.
“I was on Pacific Partnership 2018, and last year’s mission was much more conventional, based around classroom sessions and training. This year is the first time I’ve seen civmars able to go ashore to help with the mission alongside military personnel – that’s awesome. It’s great to be here for more than just the day-to-day ship operations.
“The mission is a team,” he continued. “It’s not just military or just civmars – when it’s everyone together, that’s the real deal.”
The Spearhead-class EPF has several unique features that make it an ideal platform for flexible missions. With an overall length of 338 feet, a beam of 93.5 feet, and a draft of 12.5 feet, the ship maneuvers well in close quarters.
Brunswick has been underway in support of Pacific Partnership 2019 since March 4. So far, the ship has transported the Pacific Partnership team to Majuro and Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and almost a dozen islands within Chuuk State in the Federated States of Micronesia.
Civilian mariner Chris DeSousa, Brunswick’s chief engineer, is onboard for his third Pacific Partnership.
“This year’s mission is the best thing I’ve been a part of,” he said. “What we’re doing here in Micronesia is perfect to showcase the adaptability of the EPF. This is what this class of ship was designed for – multi-use and multi-purpose, able to flex and navigate where needed, not just where we’ve been before.
“The design of the ship’s propulsion systems helps missions like Pacific Partnership when maneuvering in close quarters situations,” he continued. “We are also equipped to support various mission requirements and have also been experimenting with new ideas to help further expand the EPF class capabilities.”
Brunswick is the sixth Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport currently in service with the MSC and is the fourth ship in naval service to be named after Brunswick, Georgia.
The Pacific Partnership mission began in response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters, the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from emphasis on direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.
Pacific Partnership, now in its 14th iteration, is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Each year, the mission team works collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships in the Indo-Pacific.