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Navy Cmdr. Fernando Argeles

Navy Cmdr. Fernando Argeles (Courtesy photo)

NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan — A group of Navy fliers pitched in recently to support the far-reaching U.S. Pacific Partnership 2008.

The NAF Misawa air crew logged more than 7,000 miles in a C-12 to assist Navy and civilian engineers on Papua New Guinea, according to Cmdr. Fernando Argeles, one of two pilots on the mission.

Pacific Partnership is a humanitarian and civic assistance mission starting this summer in five countries: Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Federated States of Micronesia.

The effort is aimed at building international relationships with partner nations, according to the Navy.

The Misawa crew — which also included pilot Lt. Cmdr. Bob Spearman, loadmaster Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Larsen and mechanic Mike McNulty — was called on earlier this month to shuttle engineers for several days around Papua New Guinea, Argeles said.

The island in places is extremely rugged and impassable by land, Argeles said. The C-12 transported 20 Navy Seabees from the capital, Port Moresby, to the more remote Popondetta. The plane also carried Papua New Guinea Defense Force engineers to Popondetta, from Lae.

Giura, the airport in Popondetta, "is just a landing strip," Argeles said, lacking the typical flight landing aids. The C-12, a light-lift cargo and passenger plane, was perfect for the job, Argeles said. "We could land on a grass strip in this airplane."

The engineers were to build two new health centers and one double classroom and participate in several water projects at Popondetta General Hospital, according to Argeles.

The Navy fliers arrived on Papua New Guinea on July 4 and flew transport missions for three days, putting 45 hours on the plane by the time they returned to Misawa on July 9.

"It’s fulfilling to be able to fly down there and help," Argeles said.

The engineers are scheduled to be in Popondetta for a month. Their work will be followed by a visit from the hospital ship USNS Mercy in August, according to the Navy.

Argeles said around that time, another C-12 from Misawa, Naval Air Facility Atsugi or Kadena Air Base will most likely be called on to shuttle the engineers out of Popondetta.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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