Pacific Partnership 2013 Combat Engineers Honor Medal of Honor Recipient on Tarawa Atoll

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Chris Fowler, NPASE West

TARAWA, Republic of Kiribati (NNS) — A U.S. Marine Corps combat engineer humanitarian assistance survey team (HAST), in conjunction with Pacific Partnership 2013, conducted a memorial ceremony on Betio Island, part of Tarawa Atoll in the Republic of Kiribati, July 19, to honor one of their own.

While other members of Pacific Partnership conducted health fairs, community service and engineering events, a small group of seven Marines and one Sailor stood in the entrance to a World War II Japanese bunker just off of what was strategically known as Red Beach Three. There, HAST Officer in Charge, U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Mike Wisotzkey, Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion called his team to attention while he read a citation for the highest honor bestowed upon U.S. service members, the Medal of Honor.

“The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously to 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr … for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20-22 November 1943 …”

After the recitation, while the Marines quietly explored the bunker now located innocuously behind a police station, Wisotzkey explained more about his team and why they were on Tarawa Atoll.

“This is a Marine Forces Pacific initiative. This team’s primary mission is to conduct humanitarian assistance surveys on various outlying islands and visit, and rehabilitate, the different war memorials,” Wisotzkey said.

“But when we found out we were visiting Tarawa, we knew we wanted to do something special,” Wisotzkey said. “Lieutenant Bonnyman was one of us, he was a combat engineer.”

HAST member, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ricardo Alonsolopez described the visit as being, “Once in a lifetime.

“The Marines got stuck on a coral reef and had to wade ashore under heavy fire from the Japanese,” Alonsolopez said. “There were many casualties. So for these Marines, and for me as a hospital corpsman, these sites are part of our heritage. This is all very meaningful.”

For another Marine, Pvt. Taylor Pittman, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, standing in the bunker and seeing first hand the unexploded ordnance scattered on the ground touched more than his sense of patriotism, it touched his sense of family.

“My great uncle fought here, on Tarawa.” Pittman said. “I never got to meet him; he died years later fighting in Korea. But I can’t help but wonder, ‘Did he fight here, at this exact bunker. Was he standing where I am standing?'”

Looking around at the bunker and the rubble scattered on the ground Pittman said, seemingly to himself, “This is so unreal.”

Conducted annually since 2006, Pacific Partnership is the largest disaster response-preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Working at the invitation of each host nation, Pacific Partnership is joined by partner nations that include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.

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HMZS Manawanui Concludes Participation in Pacific Partnership 2013

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tim D. Godbee

 

TARAWA, Kiribati – The Royal New Zealand Navy diving support vessel HMNZS Manawanui (A09) concluded its mission with Pacific Partnership 2013, July 21.

During its involvement, Manawanui and embarked personnel cleared more than 2,100 rounds of unexploded ordnance in the Solomon Islands and the Republic of Kiribati that remained behind from the battles during World War II.

“The types of ordnance ranged from basic hand grenades to 1,000 pound bombs,” said Royal New Zealand Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kerry Driver, Manawanui’s commanding officer.  “Some were underwater, but most of them were on some of the outlying islands.”

Residents of many island chains in Kiribati and the Solomon Islands sometimes fall victim to unexploded ordnance and can lose limbs and often their lives, said Driver.

“We’re creating a safer environment for the local population,” said Driver. “Some of these explosive remnants of war are still dangerous and still explode every once in a while. We’re here to provide skills and tools to dispose of this ordnance.”

New Zealand Navy Midshipman David Dessoulavy said the opportunity to help people was gratifying and he learned a lot along the way.

“There are a lot of locals out there that are quite literally living on explosive mounds,” said Dessoulavy. “It’s rewarding for us to finally clear up the mess that was made a long time ago.”

A team of seven U.S. Navy explosive ordnance technicians joined Manawanui’s 23-person crew to aid in their efforts.

“It’s been an absolute treat working with them,” said Dessoulavy. “It’s been great having a different perspective from a different navy on how to do the job for the past two months.”

Conducted annually since 2006, Pacific Partnership is the largest disaster response-preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Working at the invitation of each host nation, Pacific Partnership is joined by partner nations that include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States.

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Five Questions with Pacific Partnership 2013’s Lt. Col. Mohmad Anuar

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Lt. Col. Mohamad Anuar is an internal medicine physician in the Malaysian Army. He has served for 11 years and is participating in Pacific Partnership for the mission ports of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and a portion of the Solomon Islands.

Pacific Partnership: Why did you want to participate in the mission?

Lt. Col. Anuar: To explore naval medicine as well as to be part of a diverse team of caregivers helping host nations with healthcare systems that could benefit from military medicine expertise.

Pacific Partnership: What kind of work have you been doing in each mission port?

Lt. Col. Anuar: We’ve been going to remote areas where CT scans aren’t available to diagnose cases such as ischemic stroke. We also shared our expertise with the local providers about managing shock, stroke, infectious disease and tuberculosis.

Pacific Partnership: What is your greatest memory so far from the mission?

Lt. Col. Anuar: While waiting for the LCU at the Ebeye pier in the Marshall Islands one of the patients I treated on the island came up to me with a gift made from a coconut tree. I was really touched. The Marshallese people are very hospitable.

Pacific Partnership: What would you tell someone in Malaysia who wants to go on this mission next year?

Lt. Col. Anuar: It’s a different atmosphere. There are multiple cultures that work together to focus on accessibility, availability, awareness and affordability for healthcare systems. Those aspects make Pacific Partnership  special and my Malaysian colleagues should join next year!

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The Bakery

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July 15, 2013 · 2:05 pm

Majuro Journal Front Page – Pacific Partnership 2013

Majuro Journal Front Page - Pacific Partnership 2013

Front page image by: MC2 Laurie Dexter

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July 10, 2013 · 5:58 pm

Pacific Partnership 2013 hosts “Messdeck Madness!” aboard USS Pearl Harbor

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July 10, 2013 · 1:15 pm

Pacific Partnership 2013 learns to make bread

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July 10, 2013 · 1:10 pm