Thursday, April 30, 2009

Basic Mitigation Steps Key to Protection from Flu

As the Federal Government, spearheaded by the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continues to mount an aggressive response – led by science – to the H1N1 outbreak, leaders continue to urge calm with caution while emphasizing personal responsibility for following basic preventive health steps.

From President Obama to the Surgeon General of the Army, a recurring theme is that preventive measures such as washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough, and staying home from work or school when experiencing flu-like symptoms, while seemingly trivial, are key to staying healthy and helping prevent further spread of the virus.

U.S. Pacific Command continues to monitor this public health emergency very closely and encourages service members and their families to go about their normal daily routine while following public health messages, staying abreast of the news, and visiting websites such as the CDC’s for the latest and most accurate information.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Preventive Measures Encouraged in Response to H1N1 Outbreak

As noted in Pacific Command’s April 28 news release on the topic, military medical professionals throughout the PACOM area of responsibility (AOR) are closely monitoring the current outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus and are encouraging service members and their families to exercise normal precautionary measures they use during the flu season.

These precautions include, staying at home when sick; covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; washing your hands regularly; avoiding touching your nose, mouth or eyes; and seeking medical care if you are ill.
A number of resources are available for timely, accurate information concerning the H1N1 influenza. They include:

Centers for Disease Control
World Health Organization
Department of Agriculture
Hawaii Department of Public Health
Hawaii State Civil Defense

PACOM is monitoring the health of the force to ensure we're taking the necessary precautions to educate and safeguard military and civilian personnel, as well as family members.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Multilateral Naval Exercise Brings India, Japan and U.S. Together at Sea

The Indian and U.S. navies will be joined by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, for exercise Malabar beginning April 26.

As reported by The Hindu and U.S. 7th Fleet earlier this week, 10 ships and various aircraft will take part in the exercise that will include training in a variety of warfare areas as well as personnel exchanges and professional discussions.

Malabar has its roots as a bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Indian navies but has expanded in the past at the request of the Indian Navy – as it has this year – to include multinational participation.

Multilateral cooperation, fostered by exercises such as Malabar, is a U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) priority. Across the PACOM area of responsibility, this goal is advanced by a range of military engagements such as collaborative talks, professional development exchanges, and exercise programs.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Counter-piracy: Success in the Strait of Malacca

"It dawned on the states that piracy is transnational and nothing that could be handled by one nation alone. The sea doesn’t respect borders.”
Nazery Khalid, senior fellow at the Maritime Institute of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur

As noted in an April 22 Time article, acts of piracy in the Strait of Malacca have dramatically decreased since 2004, when Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – and later Thailand – embarked on a coordinated effort to patrol the critical waterway that links major Asia-Pacific economies.

More than 50,000 vessels pass through the strait each year, carrying more than one-quarter of the world’s traded goods.

Only two or three piracy attempts – depending on the source – were reported in 2008 in the Strait of Malacca, down from 38 in 2004.

The commitment of the governments of the nations along the strait to address piracy is highlighted by a cooperative approach that includes coordinated patrols and information sharing.

U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) supports its friends and allies in this critical area by promoting information sharing, collective action, and capacity building through frequent maritime security exercises and funding technology initiatives. Contributing to the enhancement of our partners’ maritime security capabilities through such partnership remains a PACOM priority.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

U.S. Navy Ship Joins China’s International Fleet Review

USS Fitzgerald, part of the U.S. Navy’s Forward Deployed Naval Force operating from Japan, arrived for a port visit in Qingdao, China, Sunday, where it is joining 20 other vessels from 14 different countries in an international fleet review to recognize the 60th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead is the senior official representing the U.S. military at the event, which is also being attended by delegations from 29 other nations.

A Financial Times article published today highlighted Roughead’s discussions Sunday with his Chinese counterpart Vice Adm. Wu Shengli, during which the two talked about cooperative anti-piracy efforts in the Horn of Africa and other ways to enhance renewed military dialogue and cooperation between China and the U.S.

Ship visits offer an opportunity for the participating navies to interact and discuss issues of common concern, and are helpful in advancing military-to-military relationships.

U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) looks forward to resuming more robust military-to-military engagements with the Chinese military to build mutual trust and understanding.

As noted in Adm. Timothy Keating’s March testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Improving the interaction between USPACOM and China’s armed forces is critical to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and reassures our regional allies, partners and friends. While cautiously optimistic, we seek a mature, constructive relationship with our Chinese counterparts. Through cooperation and candor we aim to reduce the chances of miscalculation, increase mutual understanding, and encourage cooperation in areas of common


Sunday, April 19, 2009

U.S., Filipino Teams Provide Medical Assistance

In the spirit of partnership, U.S. and Republic of the Philippines service members are working hand-in-hand throughout the island country to provide medical assistance to those in need.

An article from the Philippine Information Agency highlights the efforts of the nearly 40 U.S. and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) medical personnel who are scheduled to complete approximately 50 medical civic action projects (MEDCAPs) throughout Exercise Balikatan, which began April 16 and is scheduled to conclude April 30.

The benefits of the MEDCAPs are multi-faceted. Most visibly, sick and injured people who aren’t normally able to receive treatment have an opportunity to get assistance. These engagements also emphasize the enduring relationship between the U.S. and Philippines while providing an opportunity for the two to further strengthen ties.

Another important benefit of MEDCAPs is a better understanding of the armed forces by the people of the Philippines. MEDCAPs allow the service members to provide a presence in areas where they may not normally be seen. This presence, combined with the medical treatment they are providing, lets people know the military is there to help.

Partnership and presence are two pillars of the U.S. Pacific Command strategy. US forces forward and engaged with our partners such as with Exercise Balikatan provide increased opportunity to assist those in need while enhancing security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Exercise Balikatan Kicks Off in Republic of the Philippines

Approximately 8,000 U.S. and Republic of the Philippines service members kicked off Exercise Balikatan in Quezon City, Philippines, April 16. (Read the full story)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the exercise that focuses on bilateral disaster relief and humanitarian assistance between the two countries.

During the exercise, units from throughout U.S. Pacific Command, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel, and subject-matter experts from various Philippine civil defense agencies will participate in three simultaneous events, supporting a more efficient effort during possible contingency operations.

The first event consist of multiple humanitarian and civic assistance engagements focused on providing medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering assistance. The second event is a scenario-based staff exercise to practice headquarters-level joint force management. The last event involves cross-training and field training exercises to support the “shoulder-to-shoulder” philosophy of Balikatan.

U.S. military engineers have been working with their AFP counterparts for the past several weeks as part of Balikatan, partnering in road construction projects, providing upgrades to water systems, and building additions at several schools.

Each of the exercise events enable the participating service members to get to know each other, train together, and provide assistance in communities where the need is greatest. They also improve the ability of the U.S. and Philippines to operate as one team on joint projects.

The strong relationship that exists between the U.S. military and AFP is built on cooperation and collaboration, and is continually strengthened through exchange programs, training and military exercises like Balikatan.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Asia-Pacific Forces Discuss Military Medicine

Military medical representatives from the United States and 18 Asia-Pacific nations met at the 19th Annual Asia-Pacific Military Medicine Conference, which was held in Seoul, South Korea, April 6-10, to discuss collaboration.

The conference was co-hosted by U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) and the Republic of Korea Army (ROK), and focused on “Transforming Military Medicine Through Collaboration and Interoperability.”

Members of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) served as speakers, presenters and moderators at the conference, where medical professionals discussed ways to collaborate on solutions to problems like HIV/AIDS, infectious disease, preventive medicine, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and Avian Bird Flu. They participate in these types of conferences frequently throughout the course of a year, ultimately hoping to further enhance the ability of different nations in the region to work together on military medical issues.

This collaboration not only makes it easier for the different organizations to work together in real-world missions, but also helps build the medical capacity of the different countries. It also allows each country to gain a better understanding of their partners and their needs and abilities. Members of the PACOM Surgeon’s Office work to ensure they understand what type of viable assistance PACOM could provide to Asia-Pacific partners if it were needed.

While conferences provide an opportunity for discussion of collaboration, additional benefits are gained by working in each other’s facilities. Different nation’s can share information and resources, which provides an opportunity to learn from each other’s medical systems, issues, and challenges.

By working together on issues such as Avian Influenza, military medical forces can find common solutions to common problems, which benefits the entire Asia-Pacific region.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Center for Excellence Facilitates Disaster Relief Exercise in Mongolia

Gobi Wolf, a bilateral disaster response exercise designed to increase emergency response and management in Mongolia, concluded in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital April 10.
Exercise participants included the Alaskan National Guard, the U.S. Army War College, the Asia Foundation, the Institute for Strategic Studies, Mongolia Railroad and the Mongolia Department of Transportation.

The exercise was facilitated by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE), and Mongolia’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). See COE’s news release and photos.

Gobi Wolf began March 2 and consisted of three phases, which tested every aspect of emergency response in Mongolia. Incident Command Training focused on senior and mid-level planning, phase two was a table top exercise, and phase three was a field exercise that required simulated emergency response to a train derailment.

While this exercise provided an invaluable opportunity to enhance partnership with Mongolia, it also provided a test of readiness to deal with a situation that is very realistic to the people of Mongolia.

The Mongolia Railroad is a mainstay to many parts of the region. Goods are transported throughout the country and to its neighbors, including fruits, vegetables, and mining exports. A train derailment would potentially cause a critical hit to the economy of the region and could also impact the ability of people to travel in and out of larger cities, depending on where the derailment occurs.

In addition to damaging the economy, a train derailment could affect the food supply in the area. This would require an immediate response from NEMA and other supporting agencies to mitigate the direct impact on individuals and their ability to survive.

COE is a direct reporting unit to U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and promotes disaster preparedness and resiliency in the Asia-Pacific region. They do this primarily through training such as Gobi Wolf, education programs, consultations, and information sharing.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations Highlight Strong Military Partnership

The Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense met with their Australian counterparts, Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, and Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, in Washington D.C. April 9 to further the alliance and discuss issues of common concern.

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, U.S. Pacific Command’s commander, took part in the talks, which marked the 24th anniversary of the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) and 58 years of strategic partnership under the ANZUS alliance.

The discussions addressed a wide range of issues in strategic, security, military, and foreign policy fields

During the talks, the U.S. and Australia noted the efforts made by U.S. Pacific Command and the Australian Defence Force to better align their doctrine and procedures for responding to humanitarian and disaster relief operations, and welcomed the ongoing examination of options to hasten joint responses to these catastrophic disasters in the Asia Pacific region.

The value of interoperability between the two countries’ military forces was also acknowledged, as was the conclusion of the Joint Combined Training Capability Memorandum of Understanding, which will increase the value and reduce the cost of combined exercises, and be put to good use during combined Exercise Talisman Saber 2009, which will be held later this year in Australia.

Based on the recommendations of a joint study team, the U.S. and Australia agreed on principles that will guide greater cooperation on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The two countries noted efforts to advance their military satellite communications partnership and discussed proposals to improve mutual capabilities in support of U.S. and Australian deployed forces. They also agreed on principles for enhancing intelligence collaboration and cyber security cooperation.

Australia stands as one of America’s closest allies and partners, and the two enjoy a strong and robust military-to-military relationship that continues to expand.

For a complete 2009 AUSMIN overview, see the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations 2009 Joint Communiqué.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

JPAC Officials Reach Out to Families of MIAs

Senior leaders from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) conducted a briefing recently in Bethesda, Md., as part of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) family update, which is held eight times per year in various metropolitan locations.

These briefings provide an opportunity for all the families of missing service members to gain a better understanding of how the involved agencies work together to search for and repatriate the remains of their loved ones. See the story.

There were 71 open cases represented at this particular brief, including 31 cases from the Korean War, 19 cases from the Vietnam War, 17 cases from World War II and three cases from the Cold War. JPAC teams are actively working throughout the Asia-Pacific region to bring closure to the families who have been waiting decades to find out the fate of their service members.

JPAC teams visit multiple countries each year, both gathering information and searching for remains. The majority of the teams’ positive leads come from interviews with witnesses.

In 2008, JPAC knocked on the doors of more than 400 possible witnesses in South Korea who could provide information as to the whereabouts or fate of U.S. service members missing from the Korean War. Of these possible witnesses, 11 provided information that might be related to American losses. The visits and information resulted in three new excavation sites.

Since October 2008, JPAC has conducted or planned for 39 recovery missions, 13 investigation missions, and three underwater investigation missions. These missions cover World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Continually engaged throughout the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility and fostering relationships that allow for completion of its mission, JPAC stands as a reminder to the families of lost service members that they are not forgotten. It also stands as a reminder to today’s service members who defend or stand ready to defend the United States that if something were to happen to them, they will not be forgotten, nor left behind.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

U.S., Philippines Commemorate Day of Valor

Military and civilian dignitaries from throughout the Asia-Pacific region gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu to celebrate the Philippine national holiday "Araw ng Kagitingan" (Day of Valor) April 6.

The Day of Valor commemorates the fall of Bataan, which culminated in the surrender of more than 75,000 Filipino and American troops in April 1942. Bataan was the final Philippine province to surrender to Japanese forces in World War II, after a three-month long battle to hold the peninsula. After the surrender, the Bataan Death March claimed nearly 10,000 Filipino and American lives.

Filipino veterans past and present were in attendance at the ceremony, which reinforced the continued partnership between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, U.S. Pacific Command director for strategic planning and policy, noted the alliance that was so strong during WWII lives on in exercises like Balikatan, which means "shoulder-to-shoulder" in Tagalog.

Gilbert Teodoro Jr., Philippines secretary of national defense, spoke of the shared ideals of democracy and freedom. Alluding to the problem of terrorism in the Philippines, Teodoro stated that the struggle to build a safe and secure republic today gives greater meaning to the sacrifices of Filipino veterans past and present.

Service members from U.S. Pacific Command work closely with their Filippino counterparts every day to further strengthen the long-standing ties between our two countries, while addressing mutual security concerns.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

MPAT Nations Practice Disaster Relief Procedures, Improve Regional Disaster Response in Philippines

The U.S. Pacific Command Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) conducted a “Tempest Express” workshop in Manila from March 26 to April 3 to focus on disaster response efforts in the Philippines by local, national, regional and international actors.

This was the second major MPAT event hosted in the Philippines since the MPAT inception in 2000. The first event was MPAT Tempest Express-1 in November 2000, which was attended by 19 nations.

The workshop scenario focused on the planning and coordination required for quick response to a major (7.2 magnitude) earthquake in the metropolitan area of Manila. The response efforts were led by the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Twenty-four nations sent 93 military personnel to participate. Philippines government interagency participation was provided by all elements of the national government, the government of Metro Manila and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Humanitarian participation consisted of representatives from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Philippine National Red Cross.
Collaboration of this nature, which includes both military and non-military organizations, helps to establish and strengthen partnerships that are vital to effective crisis response throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Key objectives for the workshop centered around promoting better understanding of the disaster management and emergency response systems of the Philippines, the ASEAN nations, humanitarian community, and international militaries and improving the coordination between the various major actors.

The workshop closing ceremonies were presided over by Maj. Gen. Carlos B. Holganza, the deputy chief of staff for operations, J3, for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Tom, U.S. Pacific Command chief of staff, who both delivered comments on the importance of improving international cooperation in disasters.

(This blog was written By Scott Weidie, the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team Program Manager for U.S. Pacific Command)


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Civil Engineers Provide Humanitarian Assistance in the Marshall Islands

Earlier this week, a team of Air Force civil engineers produced their millionth gallon of purified water for the residents of Roi-Namur, part of a U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Testing base, which is located nearly 4,000 kilometers southwest of Hawaii. Read more about the mission from the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing Public Affairs staff

The island, which is the northern-most island in the Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands, was hit by tidal surge in late December that caused severe contamination in most of the water supply.

Feb. 3, the team of eight civil engineers arrived on site with five reverse osmosis systems and immediately began 24-hour operations to provide potable water for the island. Since then, they have purified enough water to sustain the residents for approximately two-and-a-half months.
The team hopes to leave the island with 2.6 million gallons of water, which can sustain the residents for three months.

Three months is enough time for natural processes to play their part in restoring the water supply to a consumable state. The rainy season is expected to begin this month, and the rain water will help dilute the chloride in the lens wells that supply the drinking water.

This is not the first time the civil engineers have been called on to provide this type of response to natural disasters. In fact, the team specifically trains to respond rapidly to restore water supplies in instances like this one. Every two years the team conducts Exercise Silver Flag at Kadena Air Base, Japan, to ensure civil engineers, as well as administrative and contracting personnel, are prepared to respond to disaster relief efforts.

The training paid off. For the Roi-Namur mission, the engineers were deployed and on the ground operating with less than two weeks notice.

The team is scheduled to depart Roi-Namur around May. In the meantime, they are working closely with the water purification plant on the island to establish a permanent solution that will help prevent future incidents of contamination to the water supply.

The expertise of this specialized unit serve to provide rapid response in any situation that jeopardizes the ability of people to obtain safe water. By working with other nations, this team helps educate others on how to provide this same response.

One of the three main pillars of U.S. Pacific Command’s (PACOM) strategy is readiness, and the Airmen of the 18th Civil Engineering Squadron demonstrated their commitment to the mission with this rapid and successful deployment. Each day throughout the PACOM area of responsibility, U.S. military personnel are training to be prepared to respond to any situation across the spectrum of operations.


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