USNS MERCY, At Sea (NNS) -- When the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 left the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Sept. 12, just days after hammering their last nail for Pacific Partnership 2008, it marked the conclusion of this year's humanitarian civic assistance mission.
The crew of USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) left to return home to her homeport of San Diego.
"Pacific Partnership reminds everyone, everywhere around the globe, that we are dependent on other people," said Gov. Wesley Simina of Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia. "We will forever be grateful to be a part of this monumental occasion."
The joint multinational and non-governmental crew that made up the Mercy departed San Diego May 1, and for four months the crew provided humanitarian assistance in the form of medical, dental and engineering projects to the Republic of the Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia.
"The basic objective of Pacific Partnership is to provide assistance to people in a number of countries, but it's also a good opportunity to build friendships and professional relationships between doctors, dentists and other specialists of the countries involved in the partnership and Vietnam," said Jon Aloisi, deputy chief of mission from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.
This mission reached thousands of people throughout the Western Pacific. More than 90,000 patients were treated, more than 14,000 dental patients were seen and more than 1,300 surgeries were conducted.
While the medical personnel aboard Mercy worked with individuals, engineers from the U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, of Gulfport, Miss.; Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, of San Diego; the Australian Army; and the Indian Army Engineer Corps, worked side by side with the host nations to make impacts to the local communities.
Twenty-six engineering projects were completed during Pacific Partnership. These projects ranged from the construction of a waste water treatment facility in the Philippines to the construction of a community center in Papua New Guinea.
"When we got here [in Popondetta], these crews worked long days and often times through difficult obstacles where it was very easy to forget why we were here," said Lt. Amy Yoon, officer in charge of the Seabees, referring to her team and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Engineering Battalion. "However it was the faces of the children and their smiles that reminded us the kind of impact that we could have in this country."
This mission provided an opportunity for partner nation representatives from Australia, Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan and the Republic of Korea to work with their U.S. counterparts.
"Pacific Partnership shows the countries we're visiting that people really do care about them," said Australian Army Cpl. Glenn Fox of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment based in Darwin. "We're excited to get in, do the work and really make some people happy."
"We talk about synergy now-a-days," said Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento of Calbayog City, Samar, Philippines, as he witnessed militaries work together. "We work with people of different backgrounds, in different sectors of society, and working with other nations is likewise a good thing."
The Mercy team was also joined by volunteers from NGOs such as Operation Smile, Project Hope, University of California Pre-dental Society, East Meets West and International Relief Teams. These civilian volunteers took time to deploy with Pacific Partnership to make a difference in both their lives and the lives of others.
"The most amazing thing about being aboard Mercy is that I am a part of a unique global team," said dental student Thien-Kim Le. "Coming here, I am taking in many things. Not only am I learning more about dentistry and finding out new information as I go, but also I am really seeing dentistry on a global level which broadens your view on the importance of a good teamwork atmosphere. For me it is so exhilarating."
Overall the mission was a success. Not only for the patients treated or the engineering projects completed, but for the friendships built between the Sailors and the people of the region.
"The bonds of friendship that's developed between the Americans, Indians, Canadians and the Chuukese will attest to the personalized part of this mission," said Simina. "It's probably one of the best measures of a successful mission."
Pacific Partnership is a humanitarian civic assistance mission considered to be at the core of the Maritime Strategy of the U.S. Navy.
"I think our Sailors and the docs and dentists and engineers that we employ in these partnership missions get certainly as much out of it and come away as immensely satisfied as do the nations that we serve," said Adm. Robert Willard, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
"I think the success of this [mission] transcended even the successes of the previous years, in some ways because we're learning how to conduct humanitarian assistance better than we have in the past," Willard said. "For all of you that had anything to do with Pacific Partnership this year, congratulations on a great success."
For more news from Pacific Partnership 2008, visit www.navy.mil/local/PP08/.
For more news from Pacific Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cpf/.