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USS Pearl Harbor returns to San Diego

SAN DIEGO — The sailors of the USS Pearl Harbor are scheduled to return to San Diego today from an annual deployment to provide humanitarian and civic assistance and to help prepare for disasters in nations in the Oceania region.

USS pearl harborThe amphibious dock landing ship’s more than 350 sailors have spent the past 105 days supporting nongovernmental organizations and regional partner nations to complete projects in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tonga, during the U.S. Pacific Fleet operation called Pacific Partnership 2013, Navy officials said.

During Pacific Partnership 2013, medical and dental professionals examined more than 18,500 people and participated in hundreds of hours of knowledge exchanges with host nations, Navy officials said. Veterinary volunteers checked out around 4,100 animals and conducted nearly 1,000 surgical procedures.

Capt. Wallace Lovely, the Pacific Partnership 2013 mission commander, said this year’s operation differed from the seven previous missions because it was more focused on preventative medicine and disaster preparedness.

“I have been amazed by the commitment with which these professionals have poured their knowledge and teamwork into making a lasting impact in these island nations,” Lovely said. “In this region, its not a matter of `if’ natural disasters will occur; it’s a question of `when.’ And through ongoing missions such as Pacific Partnership, we are able to prepare in calm to respond effectively during crisis.”

Military engineers from the U.S., New Zealand, France, Australia and Malaysia also completed 29 civic projects, including renovating and repairing schools, clinics and hospitals and surveying underwater anchorages for port safety.

The Pacific Partnership was crafted following the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia. It was started as a military-led humanitarian response to the natural disaster and has evolved to include several nongovernmental organizations and regional partner nations, according to Navy officials.

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