First Japanese Ship Assigned to US Pacific Fleet Calls at Yokosuka

JS Kunisaki Calls at Commander Fleet Activities, Yokosuka

The first ever Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship to serve as the primary mission platform for the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s annual humanitarian and disaster response-focused mission arrived at Commander Fleet Activities, Yokosuka to on-load supplies and a multinational crew.

The Osumi-Class Tank Landing Ship JS Kunisaki (LST 4003) arrived shortly after 8 a.m. on May 26 and was greeted by the dock master and a group of U.S. Sailors from the USS Lassen (DDG-82) who handled lines as the ship pulled in.

Within a couple hours of its arrival, the Pacific Partnership 2014 (PP14) Commander, U.S. Navy Capt. Brian Shipman along with his core staff from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 boarded the ship to meet with their Japanese counterparts.

“We have people flying in from all over the world, not just U. S. personnel but Australian service members as well and we’ll all be boarding Kunisaki within the next two days ” said LT Ron Piramide, Future Operations Officer for DESRON 21. “We’ve been working with the Japanese and a number of our partner nations on this plan for months now so it’s great to see all our work taking shape.”

This year’s mission will feature a multinational command and control structure to include a Deputy Mission Commander from the JMSDF, a Mission Chief of Staff from the Australian Defense Force, a Deputy Phase Commander (Indonesia) from the New Zealand Defense Force, and a Deputy Phase Commander (Timor-Leste) from the Australian Defense Force.

The Kunisaki will visit and directly assist host nations Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Republic of the Philippines with a number of engineering, medical, and civic projects.

Although PP14 officially kicks off May 26, Seabees from the U.S. Navy’s 30th Naval Construction Regiment (30 NCR) in Port Hueneme, Calif., deployed via air from Point Mugu, California earlier this month and are already working in Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

“This is a unique opportunity to be part of a mission, with our partner nations, that directly and positively impacts the daily lives of the local people of the places where we will be going,” said Shipman.

At the invitation of host nations, PP14 unifies the efforts of partner nation militaries, host nation civilian agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) to strengthen the collective ability of the international community to operate as a team in delivering humanitarian aid in times of natural disaster or crisis.

Born out of the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami that swept through parts of Southeast Asia, Pacific Partnership began as a military-led humanitarian response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters. Building on the success of this operation, the U.S. hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) returned to the region in 2006 for the inaugural Pacific Partnership mission.

The mission staff expanded to include partner nation militaries and NGOs working to increase the disaster relief capabilities of host nations.

While training in simulated crisis-conditions, Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided real-world medical care to approximately 250,000 patients, veterinary services to more than 37,000 animals, accomplished more than 170 engineering projects, and enabled critical infrastructure development in Cambodia, Federated States of Micronesia, Indonesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Press Release, May 28, 2014; Image: US Navy