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WORLD NEWS 19
Army June 9, 2011
Partners form strong ties
AS THE engineers and medi-
cal personnel taking part in Pacific
Partnership finished up their work
in Papua New Guinea, engineering
contingent OIC Lt Michael Sipple
reflected on the team's experiences
during the first half of the mission.
The Australian engineering con-
tingent, made up of personnel from
17 Const Sqn and 6ESR, has been
posted to the US Navy warship, USS
Cleveland, as it visits several countries
throughout the Pacific providing con-
struction and medical aid.
Lt Sipple said it was a mission of
many firsts for most of the Australian
"This is our first time on a ship,"
he said. "It is the first time we have
worked alongside US Navy Seabees
(engineer sailors). It's the first time
for the majority of the members to use
their trade overseas as international
representatives of Australia."
He said Pacific Partnership had
been a great learning and relationship-
building activity for all involved.
"Our sappers have established
strong relationships with our Seabee
colleagues, the ship's crew, the host
nations' defence forces and the local
people," he said.
"These relationships have allowed
us to learn new construction tech-
niques from US, Tongan, Vanuatuan
and Papua New Guinean engineers
and to share our knowledge."
While working on a construction
project in Tonga, the combined team
of engineers encountered a problem
with a section of formwork.
"The Americans and Australians
kept talking about difficult and
time-consuming solutions while the
Tongans remained silent," Lt Sipple
"After a few minutes, a Tongan ser-
geant walked up to the formwork and
fixed the problem in less than a minute
with no tools.
"He looked at us with a cheeky
smile before releasing an unforget-
table laugh. The rest of us were left
silently looking at each other until one
of the lads spoke up and said 'you
must have learnt that when you were
Lt Sipple said the participating
engineers put a lot of effort into each
construction project and the comple-
tion of a building was followed by a
ribbon-cutting ceremony with local
During visits to Tonga and Vanuatu,
Pacific Partnership engineers complet-
ed about a dozen construction projects,
while medical personnel treated almost
10,000 patients and more than 250 ani-
mals. Participants have also engaged in
about 15 community service projects
throughout the region.
After leaving PNG, the team will
continue the mission in East Timor and
the Federated States of Micronesia.
Educational experience: Australian Spr Richard Pepper (right) works with a US engineer on a new classroom at Kameua Primary School in Vanuatu
during Pacific Partnership 2011.
Photo by LS Helen Frank
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