Capt. Ryan Garcia, Lt. Col. Steven W. Johnston
Task Force Oceania hosted its first annual Capacity Building Collaboration Symposium on April 27 and 28, to foster collaboration among those working to build capacity in Oceania.
The first annual symposium was a virtual event that featured 33 presenters from 24 organizations - to include joint, interagency, multinational and united action partners - spanning six countries. In addition to Task Force Oceania members, each day approximately 70 unique, non-Task Force Oceania attendees from over 50 organizations participated in the sessions. Topics included ecology, economics, Traditional Knowledge, governance, education, and public health.
“I found the Task Force Oceania Symposium to be particularly helpful for planners and practitioners in security cooperation by focusing on what collaboration looks like to reach the ‘whole of government’ approach,” said Dr. Delaina Sawyers of the Women, Peace and Security Office in the Military-Civil Outreach directorate of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Task Force Oceania strives to be the United States government information hub for the Oceania region, as well as a facilitator which can help enhance the capacity, efficiency, and effectiveness of partners working in the Oceania region.
The symposium coincided with the return to Hawaii of the task force’s forward deployed Pacific Augmentation Teams from their respective Pacific islands. The symposium was designed so that the returning PATs could share their insights with the attending partners.
Pacific Augmentation Teams are two-person teams of Army Civil Affairs professionals who deploy to Pacific island nations in the Oceania region. The PATs are on assignments to assist US embassies with the planning and execution of both military and civilian exercises and engagements, in cooperation with their respective Pacific Island Countries.
As an example of collaboration fostered by the symposium, Task Force Oceania is working with Dr. Christian Giardina of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Dr. Mari-Vaughn Johnson of the U.S. Geological Survey to develop climate change modeling capabilities, as well as implementing a reforestation program (“Malama-Aina”) to mitigate any ecological damage related to US military exercises in the Pacific Island Countries. A pilot program has been proposed for the Republic of Palau.
Another example is the collaboration between the Hawaii lieutenant governor’s office, Remote Area Medical - a non-profit provider of mobile medical clinics delivering free dental, vision, and medical care to under-served and uninsured individuals - and Task Force Oceania to develop a plan to deploy mobile health clinics to the Pacific Island Countries.
Task Force Oceania intends to hold the symposium annually, with the next iteration planned for January 2022. Symposium planners have been in contact with Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies and the East-West Center to co-sponsor the symposium in coming years. In addition to collaboration opportunities, Task Force Oceania will use the information produced from the symposium to help build its Civil Information Management products and leverage the presenters’ expertise as a source of information or assistance for forward deployed teams.