USNS Merecy Deploys for Pacific Partnership


U.S. Pacific Fleet’s humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) mission, known as Pacific Partnership, will deploy aboard U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) May 1, for a four-month deployment Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership has become the largest annual HCA mission in the Asia Pacific region. Pacific Partnership is focused on building enduring relationships by working through and with host nations, partner nations and non-government organizations (NGOs) to enhance our collective ability and capacity to respond to natural disasters.

Pacific Partnership 2012 is led by three different element commanders: Capt. James Morgan, mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2012 and commander of San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron 7; Capt. Jonathan Olmsted, of the Military Sealift Command and Mercy’s master; and, Capt. Timothy Hinman, commander of the military treatment facility which is responsible for the hospital and providing care aboard Mercy and on shore.

“It’s an exciting day for the Pacific Partnership team,” said Morgan. “A lot of planning and coordination among host and partner nation governments and military, civilian organizations and agencies, has gone into getting us to this point. We’re ready to deploy and conduct the mission on a theme of ‘preparing in calm to respond in crisis.”

At the invitation of, and in coordination with, the host-nations, Pacific Partnership will conduct tailored civic assistance projects (CAPs), which build relationships and capacity in the areas of medical, dental, veterinary and civil engineering. The mission will also conduct community service and subject matter expert exchanges that reinforce the importance of mutual support and learning about cultures, capabilities, and practices.

I am really looking forward to going beyond what we have done in the past as part of our exchanges,” said Hinman about the medical capabilities of the mission. For previous missions, surgeries were traditionally performed by U.S. and partner providers aboard Mercy. “This year’s mission provides opportunities to integrate host nation providers into performing surgeries, both on the ship and ashore, as a true exchange of expertise and practice that will greatly increase medical capacity and build relationships.”

Mercy is the lead U.S. vessel and will embark with a joint, combined team of U.S. military and interagency personnel, representing the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps; U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Justice, the Agency for International Development, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Japanese landing ship tank Oosumi (LST 4001), carrying a complete medical team, helicopters and representatives from Japanese volunteer organizations will join Mercy during its stops in the Philippines and Vietnam. Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand will also deploy teams of personnel as partner nations supporting the mission.

NGOs and international agencies are a critical part of the continuity that maintains and builds capacity with local populations. This year, NGOs participating include the East-West Center, Global Grins, Hope Worldwide, LDS Charities, Oceanit, Project Handclasp, Project Hope, U.C.-San Diego Pre-Dental Society, University of Hawaii, Vietnam Medical Assistance Program, and World Vets, along with numerous in-country organizations.

“Having participated in Pacific Partnership 2009, I know firsthand what an impact we have on the local populations we visit,” said Olmsted, who has overall responsibility for the ship and safety of the nearly 1,000 passengers and crew aboard. “In building these relationships, we’ll have a better understanding of how multiple militaries and civilian organizations can work together to overcome the adversity of a natural disaster.”

Naval Today Staff , April 27, 2012;