SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Following a four-month tour to five nations, and helping thousands of people while also supporting the U.S. Maritime Strategy, the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived on Guam Sept. 3.
Mercy was the platform for Pacific Partnership 2008, a humanitarian mission to Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea. The mission helped build collaborative relationships by providing engineering, civic, medical and dental assistance to the nations.
An international group of doctors, dentists, nurses and other health professionals from partner nations, such as India, Australia and Canada, along with volunteer professionals from non-governmental organizations, such as Project Hope and the University of California Pre-dental Society, helped make the mission a success, said Lt. Arwen Chisholm, public affairs officer for Pacific Partnership 2008.
"They really made a difference because they had different ways of doing things that we could learn from, and we were able to teach them as well," she said. "So it was a great learning experience all around."
Seaman Dara Montoya said she learned a lot during the mission. Montoya, who works with U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, was a Pacific Partnership 2008 volunteer.
"I worked in the intensive care unit which was always busy ... when we were in one of the ports," she said, adding the intensive care unit has 60 beds and on any given day was filled with patients.
"It was a wonderful experience," Montoya added, noting that she had the opportunity to work with counterparts from different countries. "It was very humbling but motivating at the same time, because I realized that there was so much more to learn, that I was only beginning to see the extent that I could help others."
Chisholm noted Pacific Partnership 2008 provided medical and dental assistance to more than 90,000 people, ranging from simple dental issues to aiding a hiker from Papua New Guinea who had fallen into a coma.
There was a construction component of the mission as well. Engineers and construction personnel - some Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, which has a detachment currently stationed on Guam - completed 26 engineering projects, that included refurbishing schools and a hospital renovation project in Chuuk.
Those stories helped inspire a group of nursing students from Guam Community College who were able to visit Mercy while she was ported on Guam. Rhea Edusada, a practical nursing student, said her visit to Mercy confirmed her desire to join the health profession.
"I've always wanted to be a nurse, the fact that I'll be out there helping people, doing what I can to save a life," Edusada said.
Fellow nursing student, Heather Rodriguez, explained her tour aboard Mercy is opening new avenues for her career.
"There's so much to do in the health field... and this is an option I might want to take later... just seeing how they work together kind of inspires you to do more."
Mercy has taken part in humanitarian missions to some of the region's largest natural disasters including the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas, visit www.navy.mil/local/guam/.