NHA TRANG, Vietnam (NNS) -- Capt. John R. Rotruck relieved Capt. Peter F. Roberts as commanding officer of Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during a change of command ceremony while deployed in support of Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18), May 20.
During the ceremony, Roberts credited the success of his tour aboard Mercy to his fellow leaders and the hard work of both the in-port crew and embarked crew during missions.
Roberts, a cardiovascular surgeon and native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, assumed command of Mercy in July 2016. During his tour, Roberts has participated in two Pacific Partnerships and traveled more than 36,000 miles. While under Roberts command, the ship made many technological advances to include, the first underway robotics surgery, incorporating tele-health onboard the ship, and being a part of many research projects that have advanced both basic and clinical science.
"The things I'll remember forever are the personal interactions and relationships we develop in the countries we visit," said Roberts. "We (Mercy crew) deliver care to tens of thousands of patients, but it is that connection you get with one person at a time that I will remember for the rest of my life, I receive letters, messages, and emails almost daily from people in the countries we have visited, expressing how our visit and our ship changed their lives. It's not always just delivering care, the ship herself is a symbol of hope and togetherness that people are inspired by and they often take the Mercy's presence as a sign that their lives will change for the better. It is truly humbling to have been commanding officer of this vessel."
During his speech at the ceremony, Roberts spoke highly of his time aboard the Mercy.
"I'm very sad about leaving the crew and this ship," said Roberts. "Both Pacific Partnership's I had the good fortune of being able to participate in have not only been the highlight of my career but the highlight of my life. "Sailing around the world and being with people from partner nations and having a crew onboard whose purpose is to help the countries we visit is incredibly fulfilling."
Rear Adm. Paul D. Pearigen, Commander, Navy Medicine West Chief of the Navy Medical Corps., was the presiding officer for the ceremony.
"One of the most rewarding milestones and positions in the Navy, is that of commanding officer," said Pearigen. "It can be difficult and challenging, but it gives us the opportunity to lead and mold our Sailors at a higher level. Capt. Roberts experience and assignments have showed evidence of excellence in both personal and team achievements. Most importantly, there is a dedication to professionalism and leadership that's developed not only in him, but also those around him. With Capt. Roberts at the helm, Mercy has surpassed her goals and advanced the use of newly introduced programs and equipment."
Roberts's next assignment will be to assume duties as Commander 3rd Fleet Surgeon.
"It's going to be hard leaving the ship," said Roberts. "Being the commanding officer of any command is a special position and at the conclusion of the Change of Command ceremony, I'm just going to be a captain and not a commanding officer. However, I do know Capt. Rotruck is going to do an excellent job and that the ship will continue to do great things on the rest of Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18), Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), and whatever else the future may hold for her. My next job as Commander 3rd Fleet Surgeon, will give me some exposure to the Mercy during RIMPAC. I'll be waiting for her in Pearl Harbor in July and I'm looking forward to participating in all the RIMPAC events and seeing how the crew is doing."
After official orders were read, Rotruck assumed all duties and responsibilities as commanding officer of the Mercy and addressed his new crew for the first time.
"I can say without question I feel like I am coming into a command that has a tremendously high morale and has demonstrated to me a climate of dignity and respect throughout the entire crew," said Rotruck. "I think this environment will help set the stage for me to sustain the positive energy and to continue having mission success that Capt. Roberts has already established. I am very thankful to him for it."
Rotruck, a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist and a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was previously Chief of Staff at Walter Reid National Military Medical Center.
Mercy, along with Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6), are participating in PP18, the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. PP18's objective is to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made and natural disasters.
PP18 consists of more than 800 U.S., partner and host nation personnel working side-by-side to better prepare for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.
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