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Friday, May 21, 2010

USNS Mercy Arrives in Guam for Pacific Partnership

WASHINGTON - The Military Sealift Command's hospital ship USNS Mercy is moored in Guam to bring on mission-support teams, supplies and other equipment to prepare for a five-month humanitarian deployment.

The deployment is part of Pacific Partnership 2010, the fifth in an annual series of U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors. The mission officially kicked off, May 1, when the Mercy left San Diego.

"We have a lot of partners out here," Navy Capt. Lisa M. Franchetti -- Mercy's commodore and commander for the overall Pacific Partnership mission – said yesterday in a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable. "We have eight partner nations, six host nations and 17 [nongovernmental organizations] that will be sending volunteers throughout the mission."

This year's mission will focus on providing assistance ashore in a variety of ways, including engineering projects, medical and dental care, participating in subject-matter-expert exchanges and conducting programs to provide humanitarian and civic assistance to Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Palau and Papua New Guinea.

Mercy is expected to arrive in Vietnam, May 31, and it will remain on station for slightly more than two weeks. In addition to the current stop in Guam, the hospital ship will re-supply at logistical hubs in Singapore and in Darwin, Australia, during the deployment.

"I can't emphasize enough what a partnership it is," Franchetti said. "That's why they call it Pacific Partnership. [It] really is not purely a military mission in any sense of the word, and we really couldn't do the mission without the support of all our partners."

The crew accompaniment aboard Mercy this year is not exclusively from the Navy. "We have quite a few Air Force and Army personnel, which is very exciting," Franchetti said. "They come from all over the U.S. There is a request that goes out to join the mission, and with some commands, it is a very competitive process."

In addition to the military support during the deployment, Franchetti said, an additional 130 partner-nation personnel will join the crew, as well as 580 volunteers from 17 nongovernmental organizations. "The total number of personnel on board will fluctuate [near] 900, and our maximum number will be right around 1,100," she added.

For this mission, Mercy has been outfitted with humanitarian and civic assistance equipment, supplies and a staff augmented with a robust multi-specialized team of preventive medicine personnel, veterinarians, medical and dental teams and engineering personnel.

"In addition to [performing] surgeries aboard the Mercy, [during] every one of the visits we will provide primary health and dental clinics, biomedical repair opportunities, preventive medicine and veterinarian care, which is a new thing this year for most of our countries," Franchetti said.

Some servicemembers who are a part of the crew will have the chance to be aboard an Australian ship prior to joining with the guided missile frigate USS Crommelin in Papua New Guinea, Franchetti said. In addition, when Mercy arrives in Vietnam and Cambodia, military personnel from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will assist in medical training and subject-matter exchanges to provide quality medical and dental healthcare.

While in Vietnam, the Japanese dock landing ship JDS Kunisaki will provide additional medical support.

"We will have a medical team made up of approximately 40 medical personnel from the Japanese Self Defense Forces, as well as three different Japanese [noncommissioned officers]," Franchetti said. "So we are very excited to have the opportunity to work together in both Vietnam and Cambodia."

The concept of Pacific Partnership evolved from the unprecedented international disaster response for countries devastated during the 2004 Asian tsunami. Follow-up missions recognized the benefits derived from cooperation between national governments, militaries, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations during disaster relief operations, as well as in civic assistance projects, according to the official Pacific Partnership website.

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