SAN DIEGO - The Military Sealift Command (MCS) hospital ship, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), departed from its homeport of San Diego for Pacific Partnership 2008 on May 1.
Pacific Partnership 2008 will bring together host and partner nation civilian medical personnel, as well as military medical and construction personnel. The four-month humanitarian and civic deployment is intended to strengthen relations in Southeast Asia and Oceania.
"I have gone on other more traditional Navy deployments, but this is my first humanitarian mission," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Dung Pham. "I was elated to know that I was deploying on the Mercy. It will give me an opportunity to reach out to those in more impoverished regions of the world and let them know that we are here for them, and we offer our hands in friendship."
The staff and crew of the MSC-operated Mercy is comprised of Navy medical personnel, members of the U.S. Public Health Service, public health and preventive medicine personnel, Seabees and members of the Air Force and Army.
"It's great to be working in a joint military environment," said Lt. Lori Thompson. "Every member of the Mercy team, regardless of what branch of service, brings their own experience and expertise to the table and makes significant contributions to mission accomplishment."
Mercy is scheduled to visit the Republic of the Philippines, Vietnam, the Federated States of Micronesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.
Partner nations participating in the mission include Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand.
Also participating in the deployment are several non-governmental organizations that provide medical, dental, construction and other humanitarian services ashore and afloat in Southeast Asia and Oceania.
"We are very fortunate as a military and civilian staff and crew to be assisted in our mission by gracious host nations and significantly contributing partner nations," said Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Mike Smith. "It is with great pride that we set sail, knowing that we will not be going at this alone, through selfless acts of friendship and relationships forged during previous deployments."
Commanding Pacific Partnership 2008 is Capt. W.A. Kearns III, commander, Destroyer Squadron 31. The ship's Master is Civil Service Capt. Robert T. Wiley, and the commanding officer of Mercy Military Treatment Facility is Capt. James P. Rice.