Home' Navy News : September 3rd 2009 Contents 14
HMA Ships Betano and Wewak played an esse
dental, engineering and veterinary aid to Tonga
HMA SHIPS Betano and
Wewak have saved the
day enabling the delivery
of vital medical, dental,
engineering and veterinary aid
to Tonga and Solomon Islands
as part of humanitarian mission
Pacific Partnership 2009.
The ADF provided specialist
support to Pacific Partnership, a US-
sponsored training and readiness
mission that works through, with
and by a diverse range of militaries,
governments and non-government
organisations to develop foreign
interoperability in delivering effective
humanitarian and disaster relief aid
in the Pacific.
Capable of moving large amounts
of cargo, personnel and equipment
from the 23,852 tonne US Merchant
Navy vessel USNS Richard E. Byrd
to key shore locations, the RAN
Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) were
essential to the success of the mis-
The Australian ships travelled
4500 nautical miles and spent more
than a month at sea together to
arrive in Tonga on July 13.
Mission commander CAPT
Andrew Cully was glad to have them
on the mission.
"These guys traveled a long way
to get here in some tough condi-
tions," he said.
"They are real sailors. They are
integral to the mission and a very
HMAS Betano is supporting a
multinational team of health profes-
sionals in the more remote islands
of Tonga, delivering primary care
providers, a paediatrician, an optom-
etrist and dentist to the isolated vil-
Betano's CO LEUT William
Hooper said it was difficult for locals
to ordinarily access the level of spe-
cialist medical treatment that was
"We're so glad to be here; to really
make a difference in people's lives,"
US Navy paediatrician CAPT
Tamaia Grigsby said they couldn't
have completed the mission without
the Betano crew.
"Without them the task would
have been seriously jeopardised,"
The Betano crew handed out
health supplies, fixed toilets, did gen-
eral repairs, gave education lectures
to kids on topics like hand washing,
provided crowd control and gave
direction to the people at the health
clinic on the island.
HMAS Wewak also worked with
the anchored Richard E. Byrd in the
Ha'apai Island group in Tonga pro-
viding daily ship-to-shore logistics.
The crew also assisted ashore at
a construction site in the village of
Nui, pouring a concrete slab to hold
a medical waste incinerator for the
hospital and securing a shelter to
Wewak's CO LEUT Rob Smilie
said that, normally, the waste was
burnt in an unprotected pile, which
children would climb over.
"We even found syringes in the
grounds, so it's good to provide them
with a much-needed asset," he said.
"We're really motivated to finish
the project as soon as possible."
The Wewak crew weren't short of
a helping hand or two.
"Some young kids came up to us
and asked if they could help out with
the slab," LEUT Smilie said.
"They love it and we love having
them around. The guys also enjoy
playing with the kids -- every after-
noon we play soccer or touch footy
with them all."
The Wewak crew also participated
in community relations activities
in Tonga, including visits to local
SBLT Ryan Fisher and AB
Anthony Smith danced and played
with children at Pangai Primary
School and helped lift the excited
kids onto the visiting US mission SA
330 Puma helicopter.
AB Smith said visiting the school
kids was in the top five of his best
days in the Navy.
"I'll remember it for the rest of my
life," he said.
LEUT Smilie said the crews of
both ships had fully integrated into
the US and partner nation teams.
"It's been very good working with
the US," he said.
"The mission platform ship gave
us tonnes of fresh water, which
means we can take longer showers
and do washing.
"The LCH guys also had a great
tour of the 'Byrd' and shopped up big
in the US canteen."
Both LCHs had a crew of about
20 personnel on board, including a
RAAF cook each. The RAAF cooks
were a very welcome addition to the
two ships, catering for extra bodies,
including the medical personnel in
Betano and some of the mission
engineers on Wewak.
RAAF cook LAC Liam Beard said
it was a great experience.
"I had never been to sea before
-- I didn't even know what an LCH
was, but I've been made part of the
family on board," he said.
The two ships travelled to
Solomon Islands with the mission
before returning to Australia.
ADF personnel will remain with
the mission on board Richard E. Byrd
until disembarking in the Marshall
Islands in mid-September.
FUN AND GAMES: (Right) CO
HMAS Betano LEUT William Hooper
entertains children while they await
medical examinations during an
expeditionary health program in
ALL SMILES: (Far right top) HMAS
Wewak's LAC Liam Beard and ABCK
Kris Kneeler alongside Tonga.
HELPING OUT: (Far right below)
Crew from HMAS Wewak help out
at a construction site at a hospital in
Photos: LEUT Lauren Rago
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