||SAN DIEGO (Aug. 26, 2013) Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Robert Esmele, assigned to amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), holds his baby daughter for the first time following a four-month deployment. Pearl Harbor was deployed for Pacific Partnership 2013. U.S. Navy photo by MCSN Todd C. Behrman
USS Pearl Harbor returns to SD
by MC3 Samantha J. Webb
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) returned to San Diego Aug. 26 after more than three months in the Indo-Asia Pacific region for Pacific Partnership 2013.
Pacific Partnership, a disaster-response preparedness mission, visited the host nations of Samoa, Tonga, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
In each mission port, embarked personnel conducted mission engagements in the arenas of medical and dental care, veterinary services, underwater harbor surveys, community service events, engineering projects, disaster response events, explosive ordnance disposal and more.
"The ship has really performed well and that's because of the crew," said Pearl Harbor's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Michael Harris. "They're an amazing group of people, and I count my blessings every day."
In addition to U.S. service members, Pearl Harbor played host throughout the mission to a number of nongovernmental organization volunteers and military members from all nine partner nations: Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.
Pacific Partnership required significant collaboration between the ship's leadership and mission leadership.
"There are ways of improvement for everything, but everybody's goal was to make the mission a success," said Harris. "Everybody worked together for the common good."
As Pearl Harbor pulled into San Diego, loved ones were on the minds of many Sailors.
"I'm excited," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Robert Esmele, whose first child, Sophia Maddison Esmele, was born Aug. 3 while Pearl Harbor was deployed. "I already know I'm going to cry tears of joy when I see the baby."
Harris said spouses and family members at home during the deployment are the real heroes.
"I'm very proud of them," said Harris. Pacific Partnership is an annual exercise that improves maritime security through disaster preparedness. It is designed to provide real world help to local people as partners learn to work together during a simulated disaster. Physicians and dentists from many nations and organizations will help local patients while military and civilian engineers reinforce community infrastructure which will be essential during a disaster situation. All participating nations and organizations help to ensure the international community is better prepared to work together as a coordinated team when disaster strikes.