CHUUK, Federated States of Micronesia (NNS) -- The villagers of Fefen island gathered around their newly renovated elementary school Sept. 1 to recognize the hard work of Pacific Partnership 2008.
The engineers from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, of Gulfport, Miss.; Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, of San Diego; and Indian Engineers from the Indian Army Engineering Corps all took part in renovating the school and attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The ceremony recognized the engineers who were part of Pacific Partnership, a humanitarian civic assistance mission to Southeast Asia, as well as the medical teams that conducted medical, dental and veterinary civic action programs on 12 different islands in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
"I want to thank the men and women of USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and the Seabee teams for your kindness and friendship to the people of Chuuk and to the entire nation, for that matter," said Emanuel Mori, president of FSM. "We are appreciative of your humanitarian mission. We are humble and we are indeed grateful."
The ceremony, conducted at Messa Elementary school, highlighted the friendships and partnerships that between the people of FSM and the United States.
"Working with the people of Fefen was the most enjoyable experience," said Steelworker 2nd Class Raquel Miranda. "They wanted to be involved, to be able to rebuild their school."
While the people of Fefen wanted to work and learn from the U.S. Navy Seabees and Indian engineers, they also wanted to share their culture.
"Every morning they brought us fresh fruits," said Miranda. "They wanted us to experience their culture."
The people of Fefen exemplified the impact that Pacific Partnership had on the people of FSM.
"I've said that this mission will be appreciated for a long, long time by hundreds and hundreds of Chuukese citizen," said Welsey Simina, governor of Chuuk state. "At this time I say I was wrong, it will indeed be appreciated for a long time by thousands and thousands of Chuukese people."
Not only were schools and clinics renovated, but medical assistance was also provided through treatment given at medical and dental civic action programs sites and aboard Mercy.
Since Aug. 17, the crew of the Mercy has treated more than 17,000 residents of FSM. A 26-member advance team of medical personnel arrived in FSM ahead of Mercy to provide medical assistance to the states of Yap and Pohnpei. During their 14-day visit, more than 3,400 residents received treatment.
The Mercy arrived off the coast of Weno Island in Chuuk state on Aug. 22. During her 10-day visit, more than 14,000 citizens were treated and more than 200 surgeries were conducted aboard the Mercy.
Though the medical assistance and engineering projects were the goal of Pacific Partnership, the interaction between the Mercy crew and the people of Micronesia was at the heart of the mission.
"The bonds of friendship that's developed between the Americans, Indians, Canadians and the Chuukese will attest to the personalized part of this mission," said Simina. "It's probably one of the best measures of a successful mission."
Pacific Partnership is a humanitarian civic assistance mission considered to be at the core of the Maritime Strategy of the U.S. Navy.
"I think our Sailors and the docs and dentists and engineers that we employ in these partnership missions get certainly as much out of it and come away as immensely satisfied as do the nations that we serve," said Adm. Robert Willard, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The Federated Stated of Micronesia was the final stop on the four-month humanitarian mission to the Western Pacific. The crew of the Mercy also provided assistance to the Republic of the Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.
For more news from Pacific Partnership 2008, visit www.navy.mil/local/PP08/.