Boston naval officer recounts goodwill mission across the Pacific to instil 'humanity and diplomacy'

The Boston naval officer played a key role in world’s largest goodwill military mission.

A Royal Navy officer from Boston has completed six months playing a key role in the world’s largest humanitarian and goodwill military mission.

Captain Joe Dransfield was deputy commander of the US Navy-led Pacific Partnership – a six month deployment across swathes of the Pacific. The aim was to deliver assistance, guidance, training, education and culture to thousands of people across seven nations.

He was the most senior of the Britons who joined around 1,500 military personnel – mostly from the US, but also involving troops from Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand. All, says Capt Dransfield, “working together to respond to Nature’s challenges”.

Born out of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, Pacific Partnership is a unique goodwill mission centred on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief readiness. It also offers medical assistance and aid, throwing in some construction projects and even cultural events. Commanded from the ship USS Pearl Harbor, the deployment was vast in scope – countries visited included Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga. The ship left San Diego in June and returned just in time for Christmas.

On Pacific Partnership, Capt Dransfield was responsible for leading the planning and execution of the mission, and acting as a diplomat/ambassador for both the UK and US, meeting ministers, heads of states, and royalty.“It’s been an amazing mission, incredibly rich and diverse,” Captain Dransfield said. “A real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “The mixture of accents, languages, cultures and uniforms, united in common goals, has been unbelievably rewarding to be part of.”

Work undertaken included rebuilding schools which might also serve as emergency shelters in the event of a natural disaster, and improving sanitation and water supplies to schools. Disaster relief specialists trained side-by-side with local emergency services in responding to simulated earthquakes and tsunamis. Sailors also planted mangroves in Fiji and Tonga to provide protection for the coastline. Other mission achievements included medics treating around 15,000 people, performing 1,400 eye tests, issuing more than 800 pairs of glasses. Some 70 concerts were also performed to thousands of people.

Capt Dransfield added: “From calling on ministers, to reassuring kids about to receive treatment, from giving blood to playing rugby, from search and rescue training to taking part in fascinating cultural ceremonies, this is a mission that is all about humanity and diplomacy.

“Every sailor, soldier, marine and airman has worked tirelessly to build and grow friendships. We have built bridges and made a genuine difference.”

After studying Physics and Sports Science at Loughborough University, Captain Dransfield joined the Royal Navy in 1998 and qualified as a Helicopter Observer. In more than 2,500 hours in the cockpit, he has served extensively in the Gulf/Middle East region, including the 2003 conflict in Iraq, and helping to quell piracy in Somalia at the end of the decade.

The variety and ambition of Pacific Partnership made it a unique experience for Capt Dransfield, who has spent the majority of his 25-year-career in the Royal Navy in the Fleet Air Arm.

As well as assignments with NATO, Capt Dransfield has served extensively in the USA from studying at the US Naval War College – where he was decorated by US Defense Secretary James Mattis – to joining the college staff as a military professor instructing the US Navy’s senior leadership courses on military operations and planning.He’s also been instrument in overseeing the Fleet Air Arm’s new Martlet and Sea Venom missiles’ introduction into service - having been involved in their design.

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