Pacific Partnership Mission Continues to Kiribati

By Cmdr. Carolyn Currie, director, theater engagement, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

Capt. Wallace Lovely, Pacific Partnership 2013 mission commander, listens to a dog’s heartbeat as World Vets volunteers perform a surgical procedure at a veterinary civic action project during Pacific Partnership 2013, July 20. Working at the invitation of each host nation, U.S. Navy forces are joined by non-governmental organizations and regional partners that include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and New Zealand to improve maritime security, conduct humanitarian assistance and strengthen disaster-response preparedness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II/Released)

Hello from Kiribati (pronounced Keer-i-bahss),

We arrived this morning after two nights and a day at sea transiting from Republic of the Marshall Islands. We were joined yesterday by the USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9). It was very exciting to see the Pearl Harbor pull up next to the Matthew Perry, moving forward in tandem, with the zipline between us.

The helo unloaded about 140 pallets of supplies as EVERYONE on the ship created the longest daisy chain I have ever seen from the flight deck down to the freezers and coolers. We all delighted as we passed fresh strawberries, ice cream, mangos and peanut butter down the chain and into stores. Sunburned, sore and tired we had the most awesome dinner we’ve had in weeks last night! Ice cream never tasted so good. I think the most exciting part of the day for everyone was receiving three large bags of mail. There are all sorts of goodies from back home being shared in berthing, but the real delight is in knowing people back home were thinking about us six weeks ago when the packages left their hands at the post-office.

We begin our work in Kiribati tomorrow. Lots of health fairs, subject matter expert exchanges, medical training etc planned. The Pearl Harbor PP13 participants have scaled down significantly as we said good-bye to a large contingency of medical folks heading home from the Marshalls. Those of us remaining will be working with the Kiwis as they take over leading the execution of the next two mission stops. It is going to be a challenge as we will be expeditionary for this part of the mission; sleeping on cots with mosquito nets and eating MREs rather than returning to the comfort of our ship every night.  But that’s what we signed up for right!? Some part of me wants to claim I am too old for this, but the junior Sailors are watching and I won’t let them see me sweat.

Speaking of sweating … we are straddling the equator once again and it definitely feels like it!  Just when I want to complain, I remember that the weather in DC is much the same this time of year and it seems not so bad. I am beginning to miss the free-flowing shower and tempurpedic mattress I left behind, but not the traffic, sweltering heat of a summer in the city or the tyranny of too well connected communication technology. Although there are no pedicures aboard, there is always a breeze on the flight deck, my commute to work is three decks below, and my cell phone hasn’t worked in two months!

My latest challenge has been my white shoes. They began their demise in Pearl Harbor while manning the rails. It seems my 20yr old Bates oxfords are dying a slow death. Dry rot and the intense heat of the flight deck have taken hold of the soles and they are disintegrating with every step I take. I temporarily stopped the erosion with a healthy coating of Gorilla Glue, but even that breaks down in the tropical heat. I suspect I will be standing in bare socks with the leather uppers covering my feet as we pull back into Pearl Harbor.

I hope all is well at home. I miss everyone and can’t wait to get back and tell my PP13 stories.