PORT VILA, Vanuatu (NNS) -- Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 service members embarked aboard HMNZS Canterbury, took part in an Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) Day ceremony in Port Villa, Vanuatu, April 25.
During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 210,000 people and completed more than 130 engineering projects in 13 countries. This is the first year Vanuatu has served as a host-nation for Pacific Partnership.
"It is truly an honor to lead the first group of U.S. Navy Sailors ever to participate here in Port Vila, Vanuatu, for today's 96th anniversary ANZAC Day ceremony," said Capt. Jesse A. Wilson, Pacific Partnership 2011 mission commander and commander, Destroyer Squadron 23. "Standing next to our Australian and New Zealand partners for the dawn ceremony with our Ni-Vanuatu hosts will be a treasured memory of mine."
During the previous week, Wilson moved his pennant flag and several U.S. Sailors to the New Zealand ship HMNZS Canterbury to ride her to Port Vila. The pennant shift to a New Zealand vessel was a first for the U.S. Navy and underscores the interoperability the mission of Pacific Partnership is all about.
This is also the first time the U.S. Navy has participated in ANZAC Day in Port Vila. The ceremony featured the raising of partner flags and the laying of memorial wreaths. Local veterans and service members from the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF), New Zealand, Australia, France and United States attended the ceremony.
"It was an honor to participate in the ceremony and raise the American flag," said David Amos, VMF junior member. "I even met a U.S. Sailor captain for the first time, and he gave me a special coin from Pacific Partnership and thanked me. It was a great day, one I won't forget."
"It's great to see different cultures come together to honor those who have given their lives in the line of service," said Logan McRae, HMNZS Canterbury leading Marine technician. "Although we are from different nations, we all share the fact that we have chosen to serve and put our lives on the line every day."
"Coming together and sharing the United States' support for our Partner Nations' culture and history is what Pacific Partnership is all about," Wilson said. "Today was another in a series of firsts for our visit to Vanuatu."
In Espiritu Santo, Lt. Cmdr Casey Mahon, Pacific Partnership advance echelon officer-in-charge in Vanuatu and Timor-Leste, led the U.S. contingent in observing ANZAC Day for the first time there.
ANZAC day is an annual celebration of those who have given their lives in the line of duty. Ceremonies are held throughout the entire day in New Zealand and Australia. Contingents of members from each service also go to the original battle site of World War I in Gallipoli, Turkey, and other places where ANZACS have fought.
HMNZS Canterbury is currently participating in Pacific Partnership 2011, the U.S. Pacific Command's annual deployment designed to improve interoperability with partner and host nations for humanitarian aid and disaster relief which has recently completed its mission in Tonga and will visit Vanuatu, Papua-New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia. The Pacific Partnership team will be in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, April 28 through May 10, working on several infrastructure projects including new schools, water catchment projects and medical clinics.
"As Pacific Partnership 2011 strengthens relationships and builds new ones, this mission demonstrates the United States' commitment to the Pacific region, and we are eager to arrive in Espiritu Santo to complete the sustainability projects with the support of our ni-Vanuatu partners," Wilson said.
For more news from Pacific Partnership, visit www.cpf.navy.mil/pp11, www.facebook.com/pacificpartnership, or http://twitter.com/#!/PacificPartner.
For more news from http://www.navy.mil/local/pacificpartnership/.