26 Sep 2012

First US disaster relief exercise underway in Tonga

3:13 pm on 26 September 2012

The United States military's Pacific contingent from Hawaii is conducting a week-long disaster relief exercise in Tonga.

"Coral Reef is a a multi-national Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise involving Australia and New Zealand as well as the US and Tonga."

The US army's Major Edward Hooks told Matangi Tonga Coral Reef is the first US military exercise in Tonga and allows them to prove their capabilities to provide rapid humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

He says that includes setting up a command centre during a time of crisis if requested anywhere in the Pacific with a humanitarian team ready to be deployed within 24 hours.

In addition to Tonga Defence Services, Tonga government ministries, the police, NGOs and the National Emergency Management Office are all taking part in the exercise.

Major Tevita Fifita says it is also providing Tonga soldiers with the opportunity to train with the US military in different sets of skills, such as live firing.