PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) successfully completed its inaugural participation in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014, Aug. 1.
Mercy departed San Diego June 16 to participate in RIMPAC marking the first time a hospital ship had been invited to join in the exercise. During the 37-day event, Mercy was an integral part of the exercise's medical, and humanitarian and disaster relief exchanges and subject matter expert lectures, in addition to serving as a host to military and civilian visitors from around the world.
Once in Pearl Harbor, Mercy joined with units from 21 partner nations, including another first-time addition, the People's Republic of China, People's Liberation Army (Navy) hospital ship Ark Peace (T-AH 866).
"The opportunity to work with our counterparts aboard Ark Pace was a rare opportunity to develop important processes and relationships needed to work together in the future," said Capt. Jeffery Paulson, commanding officer of the Medical Treatment Facility aboard Mercy. "Now we have something we can build upon as we work together in the future."
During the at-sea phase of RIMPAC, Mercy and Ark Peace personnel participated in the first-ever medical personnel exchange program; a series of three, four-day exchanges where each ship sent a team of ship riders to the other ship to participate in drills and observe day-to-day operations.
"Our goal was to look at best practices, how resources were being used, and at each host nation's capabilities" said Cmdr. Gregg Montalto, one of the officers who coordinated the exchange program. "With the common language of medicine, we are able to interact and engage with China in ways that we never have before."
Mercy also participated in various mass casualty drills with partner nations during the harbor and sea phase of the exercise.
"RIMPAC gave us an opportunity to train to our mission as a hospital ship," said Capt. Lynn Wheeler, executive officer of the Medical Treatment Facility aboard Mercy. "We put all the pieces together and really trained for trauma care because that's what this ship was made to do."
RIMPAC, which consisted of 22 nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel operating in and around the California coast and Hawaiian Islands offered many opportunities for international cooperative efforts.
"I think we can use this as a stepping stone toward future engagements," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Vincent Guerrero. "By working with other countries and being able to share our viewpoints, practices and techniques we were all able to learn and take something from this experience."
For more news from USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), visit www.navy.mil/local/tah19/.