SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Pacific Partnership 2010 commenced as the Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed its homeport in San Diego on May 1.
Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host and partner nations in Southeast Asia and Oceania. The mission is made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Pacific nations as well as non-governmental organizations and military personnel.
Pacific Partnership 2010 will visit six nations during the five-month deployment. USNS Mercy is the lead ship and will visit Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste, while two additional Navy ships will visit Palau and Papua New Guinea. At each of the visits, military and civilian personnel will participate in civic action projects and community service engagements, all part of the goodwill the ships will bring to the nations.
"This is going to be an outstanding opportunity to do good throughout the world," said U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Richard W. Hunt, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, who was on hand to bid the crew farewell. "This is clearly a mission that develops partner nation capabilities, operating with host nations and our allies to provide assistance in developing the ability to respond during a time of crisis."
USNS Mercy was originally built and used as an oil supertanker but was subsequently delivered to the Navy's Military Sealift Command in Dec. 1986. It has since been outfitted as a fully functional hospital ship. More recently, Mercy came out of the shipyard in San Francisco in March, where it was refurbished and updated to best serve the mission this year. The ship has a full spectrum of surgical and medical services, is capable of maintaining up to 5,000 units of blood, and has a total patient capacity of 1,000 beds.
At each visit the ship makes, teams of military and civilian specialists will deliver valuable medical, dental, biomedical repair, engineering, and veterinary services based on the needs, as identified by the host nations. A majority of these services are done at sites in the country, however some services, such as surgery, are done on board the Mercy.
Equally important are subject matter expert exchanges, where those deploying with Mercy will work closely with personnel from the host and partner nations to learn from one another. This will greatly serve all parties involved, as they are preparing and practicing in a time of calm should a natural disaster occur.
The partnerships developed during Pacific Partnership missions help ensure first responders have had the opportunity to collaborate in an environment that would come as close to resembling a real-world natural disaster. The U.S. Navy is no stranger to the region as it has been the first responder during past natural disasters.
Mercy has participated in past disaster relief missions. Mercy responded to the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia as part of Operation Unified Assistance. Then in 2006, Mercy provided humanitarian assistance to the Republic of Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Timor-Leste by leading Mercy Deployment. Most recently, Mercy led Pacific Partnership 2008, which visited the Republic of the Philippines, Vietnam, the Federated States of Micronesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.