Hospital Ship Mercy Deployed on Proactive Humanitarian Mission
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 11, 2006 Continuing America's longstanding tradition of helping those in need, the U.S. Navy recently deployed the hospital ship USNS Mercy on a proactive humanitarian mission to Southeast Asia, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said here yesterday.
"The Mercy deployment (is) an exciting and important opportunity to assist friends and neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, and to facilitate the security and stability and the prosperity, particularly in the maritime domain, in this region, in which we all share common interests," U.S. Navy Adm. Gary Roughead said during a State Department Foreign Press Center briefing.
The 900-foot-long Mercy left San Diego April 24 for a five-month deployment. The ship will visit the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and East Timor. It will arrive in the southern Philippines at the end of May.
The admiral made the point that the deployment is a cooperative endeavor with the host nations. "We have had an advance team working with the host nation and with the nongovernmental organizations that are already present there to determine the types of services that will be required," he said.
This is the second time the Mercy has been deployed to the region. Following the massive December 2004 Asian tsunami, the ship was deployed on a five-month relief effort. During that deployment, the Mercy team treated more than 107,000 patients, performed 466 surgeries, 6,000 dental procedures, tens of thousands of medical procedures, and distributed more than 4,000 pairs of eyeglasses, Roughead said.
He characterized this second deployment as a proactive humanitarian effort and proof that Americans are generous people. "Our Navy, our Department of Defense and our nation truly believe in humanitarian assistance and humanitarian disaster relief," he said.
This deployment consists of a U.S. medical team made up of medical professionals from the Army, Navy and Air Force. Navy construction engineers, representatives of the U.S. Public Health Service, and several members of nongovernmental organizations are also on board.
"They comprise an interagency, an international and a multi-specialized team of medical professionals capable of providing a wide range of services on board and ashore," the admiral said.
The medical capability Mercy will bring to the region includes basic medical evaluation and treatment, dental and optometry screenings, eyewear distribution, preventive medicine treatment, general and ophthalmology surgery, public health services, and even veterinary services, he said.
Roughead said he felt the most unique aspect of the mission was the combined deployment of military professionals and NGO personnel. "It's an unprecedented group of volunteers and professionals, civilian and military men and women," he said. "They are dedicated to saving lives and restoring hope and spreading goodwill."
The deployment also highlights the global reach of the U.S. Navy, and it helps to ensure that Navy responses are ready. "And that response is enabled by the agility and flexibility that we enjoy on the sea," he said.
The admiral also said he felt the Mercy deployment demonstrated the U.S. commitment to the people of the region.
"This deployment, this international cooperation and interagency collaboration is in the longstanding tradition of rendering assistance from the sea, and it demonstrates the real and true benefit of being able to take that capability from the sea to contribute to the well-being that all in the region deserve," he said.