PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy Surgeon General and Chief of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan, embarked the People's Republic of China medical ship Peace Ark (T-AH 866) for a tour, while it is in port for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014 in Pearl Harbor July 2.
Not only is this the People's Republic of China's first time participating in RIMPAC, this also marks the first year that the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is participating.
"As a U.S. Pacific Command surgeon, one of my priorities is to develop health engagements with all of our world's nations, and we are working very hard to develop engagements with the People's Republic of China," said Rear Adm. Colin Chinn, Command Surgeon, U.S. Pacific Command. "This year RIMPAC is significant; the fact that China is participating, the medical community is having a symposium and the fact that we have Peace Ark and Mercy together, actually meets one of my long term goals."
The Peace Ark was commissioned in 2008. The ship's mission is to provide a more rapid humanitarian response to disasters around the world.
"This is very exciting for our Sailors, for our staff on the Mercy and for our Navy," said Nathan. "I am hopeful that this is just the first of many opportunities we have to partner up and learn from each other. The sea can bring tremendous damage to a country and its people, but it can also bring amazing ships like the Peace Ark and the Mercy to people to help make a difference."
This tour was the final portion of the International Military Medical Symposium, held July 1-2, which allowed members throughout the international military medical community to better enhance their knowledge and experience.
"I am grateful that the crew of the Peace Ark took the time and the effort to bring this amazing ship with its amazing capabilities to RIMPAC," said Nathan. "I think that this is a very wonderful learning opportunity for everyone and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to see the Peace Ark first-hand."
The Peace Ark crew showcased a variety of areas and systems to distinguished guests around the ship, touring surgical facilities, computerized tomography (CT) scan areas, the surgical surveillance system, the flight deck and the wardroom.
"I am encouraged by the beginnings of actually doing things together," said Nathan. "The significance of this exercise is that in the past we have flown to each other's countries and talked about doing things together, but here we are actually doing things here together, and that can be the start of a more robust relationship and an understanding of each other's desires and capabilities."
Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
For more news from Rim of the Pacific, visit www.navy.mil/local/rimpac/.