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Royal Australian Navy Helps 'Take a Load Off'

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090717-05
Release Date: 7/17/2009 12:37:00 AM

Special to Pacific Partnership Public Affairs from Australian Defence Force

NUKU ALOFA, Tonga (NNS) -- HMA ships Betano and Wewak from Australia have joined Pacific Partnership 2009, a humanitarian civic assistance mission that enables the delivery of vital medical, dental, engineering and veterinary aid to Tonga and the Solomon Islands July 13-August 23.

Capable of moving large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment from USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) to key shore locations, the Australian ships are essential to the success of the mission.

The landing craft heavy team arrived in Tonga after spending more than a month at sea, traveling 4,500 nautical miles.

"We're looking forward to participating in Pacific Partnership, to making a difference to so many people's lives," said Commanding Officer of HMAS Betano, Lt. Cam Hooper.

Pacific Partnership 2009 Mission Commander Capt. Andrew Cully is also glad to have the landing craft on the mission.

"These guys traveled a long way in some tough conditions to get here. They are real Sailors. They are integral to the mission and a very capable crew," said Cully.

HMAS Betano will transport a multinational team of health professionals and medical supplies to the more remote islands of Tonga, which have populations ranging from 500 to 1,000 people.

"It would be difficult for these people ordinarily access this level of specialist medical treatment," said Hooper. BETANO will deliver primary care providers, a pediatrician, an optometrist and a dentist into the isolated villages.

HMAS Wewak will work with the anchored Byrd in the Ha'apai Island group providing daily ship to shore logistics. The crew will also help ashore at a construction site and visit local school children.

Both landing craft heavy have an Australian crew of 20 personnel on board including Royal Australian Air Force Cooks.

The Australian Defence Force is providing specialist support to Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-sponsored training and readiness mission which works through, with and by a diverse range of militaries, governments and non-governmental organizations to develop foreign interoperability in delivering effective humanitarian and disaster relief aid in the Pacific.

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