Incorporating lessons learned from prior missions was the topic of my second question to Captain Andrew Cully, Pacific Partnership Mission Commander, and Cdr. Jeff Bitterman, USN, Medical Contingent Commander, during a recent DOD Bloggers Roundtable. 

USNI Blog: What are some of the lessons learned from previous missions that you incorporated into this year’s mission?

COMMODORE CULLY: Well, I think quite a few lessons learned to be had from this is early encounter of the predeployment site surveys to go out to the sites. When the State Department and when CINC PAC fleets send out the notice that says, hey, we would like to come to your countries this year or the following year to do specific partnerships, one thing we found out that we need to do early on is get a small contingent of folks out to brief the ministries and the embassies on what is the capabilities that we can provide.

Because what we found out in previous years is that when a predeployment site survey team, a team comprising about 16 personnel, go, they’ll spend the first two or three days explaining the mission, explaining the capabilities, explaining that this is a truly humanitarian effort. And that’s where our focus needs to be. So I think we incorporated that early on, and that was good.

Another thing is I think we’re sending our advance teams out earlier than in previous years. And I’ll say I did that mainly because of the changing scope of this mission and the change from Dubuque to the USNS Richard E. Byrd because there was quite a bit of change in our capability from having the Dubuque and the number of personnel and specialties I could take to going onto the Richard E. Byrd and having to downsize quite a bit.

Another thing we’re doing this year that’s a little different, that is very much different from past years, is that this is truly by, with and through the host nation. One thing I want to make sure is that we didn’t bring all the engineering supplies (we needed to take ?).

As you know, if you go into Samoa, you go into Tonga and you go into the entire Oceania Region, they follow different standards. They go on 50 hertz (by ?) 60 hertz as far as electricity. So for us to go in there and provide U.S.-type equipment at 60 hertz, of course, that would do no good, and they would not be able to sustain that.

So after a lot of conversations, we were able to arrange where I had supply personnel and contracting folks go into the countries, go into their — (inaudible) — go into their lumber yards and purchase that equipment on-site. So now that puts more money back into their economy, it’s more sustainable. And so I’d say that would be the big one that we did this year.

And as this conversation goes on, I’ll try to think whatever lessons learned. Those are the primary ones I can think of. I think (Doc ?) may have one.

CDR. Jeff¬†BITTERMAN (PH): Yeah. A couple on the medical side of the house come to mind as the Pacific Partnership has developed over time, that we’ve kind of latched onto and used in our planning process, even with the downsizing of the mission.And one of those is to really hit into the high-capacity –(inaudible) — type areas when we deliver the health care. So we’re pretty excited that even though we’ve had to downsize this mission quite a bit as far as personnel goes, we’re still being able to deliver in a lot of high-impact areas. So we’ve got to reduce our manning by almost 70 percent on the medical side due to the change in platform, but we’re still going to be able to probably deliver around in the neighborhood of 75 percent to 80 percent of the services we initially promised. And that’s because we’re going to focus on the areas such as the veterinary, dental, optometry and public health.

And just as an example, you know, if you go in in a MEDCAP, if you’re seeing people as they come through, you’ll help a few people. Surgery is a great service to offer, but the folks that have cataract surgeries — (inaudible) — able — (inaudible) — go in and, you know, work with somebody’s sanitation or water supply and fix that system, that’s something that sustains for a long period of time, long after we leave and go on to the next island. And then the other lesson learned we really wanted to latch onto and work with very early on from the get go is working by, with and through the host nation and our subject matter expert exchange or educational training opportunities and tailoring those to what the host nation would like us to bring to the table but also to work collaboratively and have an opportunity to benefit from their areas of expertise as well.

I remember a story when I first started taking on this (mission ?) back in November (at the initial ?) — (inaudible) — conference. Somebody who had done a (PP07 ?) and they had mentioned how they went into one of the nations and were convinced that they were going to talk to everybody about pandemic flu. They were, again, in a similar area in the Asia Pacific. Well, that’s, you know, where bud flu or pan flu is likely going to — (inaudible). And most of these folks had been working on a pan flu plan for much longer than the United States had. And it went over terribly because we basically went in, didn’t bother asking them what they wanted to hear about and kind of forced our perceived self-importance in pan flu on that host nation.

So we want to do it just the opposite. If there’s areas that they’ve been working on much longer than we have, we can integrate with their professionals to help deliver that message and then any areas they would like us to come to the table and teach them on. First aid training has come up a lot, helping them set up EMS systems, things of that nature. So that’s where we’ll come in and provide our assistance. So we want to work by, with and through the host nation. And we’ve really, I think, been able to tailor our subject matter expert exchange program by using that lesson learned in the past.

Many valuable lessons in this thorough response to my question. Let’s home on future missions they don’t have to be llearned the hard way ever again.




Posted by Jim Dolbow in Soft Power


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  • Charlie Gonce

    I’ve always been curious as to why the Navy’s DCO program does not create a sub-category of, for a lack of better words, a liberal arts Officer. What I mean by that would be to explore the possibility of direct commissioning anthropologists, sociologists etc. into a new category outside the traditional Law, Med, Chaplain, Eng. etc. disciplines.
    My undergrad was in physical anthropology (heavy on evolutionary biology), which I obtained while a Marine Reservist. I was always impressed by the robust knowledge base my peers possessed of the human condition; whether it be our culture, our politics or even how the appendix became a vestigial anatomical trait. This robust approach would be invaluable to relationship building and information gathering with regards to deployments in unfamiliar places and across different cultures.
    Cdr. Bitterman comments on the constraints encounter in some of the pre-deployment exercises, and I contend that the simple insertion of Lt. John Doe, Medical Anthropologist, would solve a host of problems, as well as supply the Navy with a very flexible and value added type of Officer.

  • http://www.jimdolbow.blogspot.com Jim Dolbow

    great idea! I like it. I want to blog about it more.

  • Charlie Gonce

    Anthropology is a very underrated field. It is comprised of 4 disciplines, which most people don’t know. Physical (evolutionary biology), Cultural, Linquistics and Archelogy. The first 3 would have a direct impact on current operations, and I think are quite self explainatory in how they could benefit ops in the ME. Even the 4th, archeology, is being subcontracted out under JPAC (MIA accounting command).

    As for me, physical anthro made me an ideal candidate for b-billets in NBC. Learning the evolution and biology of infectious critters served me well in that role. It also serves me well today, as I have a large role in quality assurance in a company that produces most of the vaccines your kids and grand kids recieve. The military also purchases a large portion of our vaccine products, and I think we all remember what it was like to get jabbed countless times during indoc and beyond.

    I guess my major point is that this type of education would create some real out of the box thinkers in the med corps arena.

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