Pacific Partnership 2011 Advanced Echelon Makes Preps in Tonga

Story Number: NNS110405-18Release Date: 4/5/2011 3:56:00 PM
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By Lt. Zachary Harrell, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs

VAVA'U, Tonga (NNS) -- The Pacific Partnership 2011 (PP11) advanced echelon (ADVON) team arrived in the Kingdom of Tonga March 16, to plan for the arrival of more than 500 sailors and representatives

The ADVON team is surveying the progress made on several engineering projects already underway and making arrangements for cooperative medical, dental and veterinary engagements, as well as community service events that will take place when the PP11 main body, embarked aboard USS Cleveland (LPD 7), arrives in the Western Pacific archipelago.

"The ADVON portion is critical to mission success," said Lt. Joseph Teixeira, the officer-in-charge of the Pacific Partnership 2011 ADVON team for Tonga. "We arrive in-country five-to-six weeks before the ship pulls in and serve as a link between the host nation and the command element to ensure all tactical, logistical and cultural concerns are factored in to our mission."

After initially arriving in the city of Nuku'alofa, on the Island of Tongatapu, the team met with the commander of the Tonga Defense Service, Brig. Gen. Tau'aika 'Uta'atu, and representatives from the New Zealand High Commission, the Tonga Red Cross, the Tonga Prime Minister's office and the Tonga Ministry of Health.

'Uta'atu confirmed that PP11 would have all the necessary logistic and personnel support, while Teixeira, ensured that all parties were informed of the plans for various cooperative engagements throughout the Tonga portion of the mission.

The ADVON team then traveled to the island of Vava'u, the primary site for the Tonga portion of the mission, to assess progress made on several cooperative engineering projects already underway, such as the town hall in the village of Utui whose primary support structure had begun to give out after years without proper maintenance.

"The labor for all of the initial construction efforts is provided by the Tongan Defense Service (TDS)," said Lt. j.g. William Horne, ADVON engineer. "A team from Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 1, will arrive two weeks before the ship pulls in to lead or supplement their efforts, and additional ACB 1 forces will pull in with the ship to complete the remaining work with the TDS. We'll collaborate with the Tongan people every step of the way to ensure that the work that we do reflects the great pride they have in their community."

The team also attended meetings with Vava'u's port authority, police inspector, director of tourism and many other community leaders to make proper preparations for the arrival of USS Cleveland and the other PP11 participants, including the New Zealand amphibious support ship HMNZS Canterbury (L 421) and U.S. Coast Guard cutter, USCGC Jarvis (WHEC 725).

Pacific Partnership is aimed at strengthening regional relationships between the U.S., its allies and nations in the Western Pacific that might be called upon to respond to natural or humanitarian disasters in the region. The mission will visit the Kingdom of Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia.

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