Medical officer rewarded for Pacific peace mission

Four inspiring months delivering a message of peace, goodwill and prosperity around Pacific earned Lieutenant Andrew ‘Les’ Dennis a magnificent sword.

The junior officer was presented with the Reed Sword for leadership in operational support for his outstanding performance as the senior British medical planner for the US-led Exercise Pacific Partnership.

The deployment sees sailors from around the world – and the Pacific Rim especially – join US Navy vessels for a tour of remote islands and communities in that ocean, providing medical care, grappling with engineering projects, supporting educational projects, helping locals prepare for the many natural disasters (chiefly typhoons and earthquakes) which affect the region, and generally promoting a message of goodwill and assistance.

Four Britons (Capt Paddy Allen RN, in charge of the fast transporter USNS Brunswick, disaster relief planner Capt Tom Magee RAMC, aero-medical adviser Flt Lt John Carillion-Curry, plus Lt Dennis) took part in the 2019 deployment – the 14th iteration of Pacific Partnership, which was established in the wake of the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

According to his citation, during the four months he was assigned to Pacific Partnership 19, Lt Dennis “accomplished what was expected of him – and much more”.  

It wasn’t easy: there were more than 40 medical specialists aboard the Brunswick from various nations, all with different skills and levels of experience.

On top of that much of the original planning was disrupted by real-world events; part way through the deployment, Brunswick was given the task of helping out in the wake of Super Typhoon Wutip (winds of up to 120mph).

Although there were no fatalities, the storm caused widespread damage and destruction to the Mortlock Islands and North West Islands of Chuuk.

Lt Dennis led medical teams to offer both treatment to islanders and resupply dispensaries with medicines and equipment.

Throughout, says his citation, Lt Dennis demonstrated a “strong work ethic, reliability and determined nature”.

And as a former PTI, the Brit used his experience to run daily flight deck circuits when the ship’s programme allowed, keeping all nationalities aboard the Brunswick in peak fitness – and keeping morale up.

For his efforts, the Commander Western Pacific Task Force 73, Rear Admiral Tynch, presented Lt Dennis with a letter of commendation for his leadership.

And when considering medical supply officers across the specialisation for the strongest operational contribution over the past 12 months, Lt Dennis’ superiors said over the past 12 months his “contribution clearly stands out above the rest” to make him a worthy winner of the prize blade...presented by Capt Allen, now Captain Devonport Flotilla.