Successful Southwest Pacific deployment concludes

The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) first enhanced regional engagement activity in the Pacific for 2019 has concluded with the return of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Choules to Townsville on 19 March 2019.

Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP said the deployment of the ADF contingent heralded the beginning of a very busy year for Defence.

“This activity is the first of a series of key regional engagements this year, designed to support capability development, respond to common security challenges, and build interoperability and resilience across the region,” Minister Pyne said.

HMAS Choules’ month-long deployment incorporated a series of bilateral activities in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and was conducted as part of the Australian Government’s Pacific step-up initiative to strengthen our enduring partnerships and promote a secure and prosperous region.

“The outcomes demonstrate the shared desire amongst our many regional partners to work closely together to build prosperity, security and above all a unified respect for sovereignty,” Minister Pyne said.

“Visiting Papua New Guinea, HMAS Choules strengthened ADF relationships with the PNG Defence Force by delivering tools and equipment to the Lombrum Naval Base and providing on-board training opportunities to the PNG Defence Force Maritime Element, including training with the ship’s MRH-90 helicopter.”

With a focus on logistics and public affairs training, personnel from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and the 1st Joint Public Affairs Unit provided training in the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, to assist the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force prepare for their historic National General Election in April 2019.

In Vanuatu, ADF personnel conducted a program of training and engagement to support the needs of the Vanuatu Police Force, including the Vanuatu Mobile Force and the Police Maritime Wing.

The visit to Port Vila also involved maintenance assistance to the Republic of Vanuatu Ship Tukoro and a women’s leadership and professional development workshop.

The Cyclone Pam commemorative activity on Tanna Island was a moving ceremony in memory of the shared experiences of the 2015 tragedy.

“Future regional engagement activities and exercises will expand on the success of this deployment,” Minister Pyne said.

“Like Indo-Pacific Endeavour, this initiative is an ongoing effort to expand Australia’s engagement in the region that will continue to offer meaningful and relevant interactions through our long-standing friendships and build upon our shared histories, regional bonds and security needs.”

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