Alumnus plays key role in world’s largest goodwill military mission

Capt Joe Dransfield chats with the Governor of the Province of La Union

Capt Joe Dransfield chats with the Governor of the Province of La Union

A Loughborough alumnus has completed six months playing a key role in the world’s largest humanitarian and goodwill military mission.

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

He was the most senior of around half a dozen 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 (hence the motto ‘Prepare in Calm to Respond In Crisis’).

It also offers medical assistance and aid, throwing in some construction projects and even cultural events.
Commanded from the amphibious ship USS Pearl Harbor, and supported at times by American, Japanese and South Korean vessels, the 2023 iteration of the deployment was vast in scope – countries visited include Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga – and length: the flagship left San Diego in June and returns in time for Christmas.

Engineering teams refurbished or rebuilt school buildings which might also serve as emergency shelters in the event of a storm or other natural disaster, and improved sanitation and water supplies to some schools.

Capt Dransfield meets pupils from Hoa Dinh Tay School in Phu Yen, Vietnam. He is making a heart shape with his hand and the hand of a child. The children are seated at desks.Capt Dransfield meets pupils from Hoa Dinh Tay School in Phu Yen, Vietnam

Disaster relief specialists trained side-by-side with local emergency services in ‘responding’ to simulated earthquakes and tsunamis. Sailors planted mangroves in Fiji and Tonga to provide protection for the coastline, while musicians – including a British Army bagpiper – got schools and communities swinging with a series of concerts.

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.

After studying Physics and Sports Science at Loughborough University in the mid-1990s, Joe joined the Royal Navy in 1998 and qualified as a Helicopter Observer – responsible for navigating and operating the sensors and weapons systems of Lynx helicopters.

In more than 2,500 hours in the cockpit, Capt Dransfield served extensively in the Gulf/Middle East region, including the 2003 conflict in Iraq, and helping to quell piracy Somalia at the end of the decade.

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 also been involved in their design.

On Pacific Partnership, Capt Dransfield has been 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.

UK Minister for the Indo-Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan meets British participants of Pacific Partnership 2023. There are six people in the image, five of whom are wearing military uniforms.UK Minister for the Indo-Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan meets British participants of Pacific Partnership 2023

“It’s been an amazing mission, incredibly rich and diverse,” Captain Dransfield enthused. “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.”

Among Pacific Partnership’s achievements, its medics treated around 15,000 people, performed 1,400 eye tests, issuing more than 800 pairs of glasses, engineers built new classrooms for schools in Vietnam and the Philippines, and musicians performed 70 concerts to a total audience of more than 30,000 people.

“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,” Capt Dransfield added.

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

Imagery: Capt Dransfield on Pacific Partnership 23. Provided by the Royal Navy.