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Pacific Partnership Team Transforms Smiles in Puerto Princesa

25 August 2022

From Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandie Nuzzi, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19)

PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines - When USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) left Puerto Princesa, Philippines, 35 young children were all smiles, thanks in part to the Pacific Partnership 2022’s plastic surgery team.

While in the Philippines for the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission, doctors performed pediatric cleft palate surgeries. This condition, which occurs in the womb, results when the upper lip or palate does not connect.

“By doing the cleft lip surgeries on the children, it really showed me that the knowledge and skills I have are making a difference,” said Hospitalman Kelsey Peterson. “I have learned to be an even better surgical tech.”

Mercy is currently underway for Pacific Partnership 2022. Now in its 17th year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific.

During PP22, doctors on Mercy partnered with counterparts in the Philippines to conduct the cleft palate repair surgeries. Engagements like this help foster relationships that make a difference in the lives of those involved.

“It is so fantastic, and it is so rewarding especially since I have been in close to 20 years for my military career, “said Capt. Eamon O’Reilly, who is participating in his third Pacific Partnership.

“I would say that it is truly a partnership with a transfer of knowledge in both directions. I have learned things from partner surgeons.”

Peterson explained that she “loves” her job, taking care of patients, supporting surgeons in the operating room and sharing her knowledge with other countries’ medical professionals. PP veteran O’Reilly, who may have performed his last cleft palate surgery on board Military Sealift Command’s hospital ship, agrees.

“The most rewarding part has been seeing the children the next day post-operation with their families and them saying they are so thankful to have access to [getting the help they need],” said O’Reilly.

“Babies who had a cleft lip before surgery can now have a social smile and be able to talk better. It is a huge deal.”

For more information about the Pacific Partnership mission and USNS Mercy, visit: or, or


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