USNS Mercy Wraps Up Pacific Partnership Role
By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Gaines
Pacific Partnership 2010 Public Affairs
DILI, Timor-Leste, Aug. 26, 2010 The hospital ship USNS Mercy concluded operations here Aug. 24, marking the end of the ship’s participation in Pacific Partnership 2010.
The ship deployed May 1 and it will return its homeport of San Diego in late September.
“It is hard to believe that just 11 days ago we opened Pacific Partnership 2010 in Timor-Leste,” said Navy Capt. Lisa M. Franchetti, Pacific Partnership 2010 mission commander, during the mission’s closing ceremony. “We should all take great pride in what we have accomplished in such a short time.”
Franchetti also thanked Timorese officials and volunteers for their efforts to ensure the mission was a success.
“Watching Pacific Partnership 2010 develop from a simple vision of what ‘could be’ to the reality of seeing our collective teams in action has been a rewarding experience for me and everyone involved,” she said.
Col. Falur Rate Laek, Timor-Leste military chief Of staff, said he was extremely pleased with this year’s mission, the fourth visit of this kind to his country.
“This cooperation is a continuation of previous cooperations, but this year builds greatly upon the others,” he said. “All of the activities were performed successfully, and the work has been fruitful.”
During the four-and-a-half month deployment, the Pacific Partnership team conducted humanitarian and civic action activities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste.
Merchant Marine Capt. David Bradshaw, master of the Mercy, said he was thrilled with the mission.
“Mercy is operated by the Military Sealift Command and has a crew of 67 civilian mariners, 13 of whom have been on board Mercy for all of her Pacific Partnership missions, as well as the response to the Indonesian tsunami [in 2004 and 2005],” Bradshaw said.
In addition to the civilian mariners, Mercy was manned for Pacific Partnership with more than 1,000 personnel from all four U.S. military services and 10 partner nations, including Australia, Canada, Cambodia, France, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, South Korea, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Embarked nongovernment organizations included East Meets West, International Relief Teams, Latter-Day Saint Charities, Operation Smile, Project Hope, Hope Worldwide, UCSD Pre-Dental Society, Vets Without Borders, and World Vets.
The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ship Kunisaki and Royal Australian Navy HMA ships Labuan, Tarakan, and Tobruk also participated in various phases of Pacific Partnership.
Conducting surgery on board and setting up multiple health care clinics ashore each day, the Pacific Partnership medical team was able to treat more than 101,000 patients in the four countries, including more than 20,000 in Timor-Leste. The ship’s surgical team performed 775 life-changing surgeries during the deployment, ranging from cataract removal and cleft palate/lip repair to orthopedic surgery and other surgical procedures not readily available to the people served.
“Pacific Partnership 2010 embodied a spirit of collaboration among all participants, from patients, to partner nation colleagues, to U.S. military and nonmilitary staff,” said Navy Capt. Jeffery Paulson, the medical treatment facility’s commanding officer. “We worked as a team, learning from one another and establishing a solid foundation for future efforts involving humanitarian assistance or disaster relief.”
As part of the medical outreach effort, more than 58,000 pairs of eyeglasses and sunglasses were distributed at medical civic action projects. Dental services provided on board Mercy and at the clinical outreach sites provided care for 1,505 patients.
A notable example of integrated medical care occurred as the audiology department identified children with treatable ear problems on shore and brought them on board Mercy for care by the ear, nose and throat surgeon. The biomedical equipment repair team repaired 124 pieces of equipment, an estimated repair value of $5.8 million.
In addition, the Pacific Partnership team conducted a series of subject-matter expert exchanges in each country on topics requested by the host nation during the planning process. These events, held on board Mercy and ashore in the Dili area, covered a wide variety of topics including first aid, nursing, cardiology, orthopedics, nutrition, disaster response, water and food safety and public health promotion. More than 11,000 hours of exchange classes were attended by 2,350 service providers across the four countries.
Sixty community service projects, the majority of them at schools and orphanages, and six major performances by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band throughout the four countries provided additional opportunities to strengthen the bonds between the United States and host nations. In addition, donations from Project Handclasp, a Navy program that coordinates transportation and delivery of donated humanitarian, educational and good will material to needy recipients in foreign countries, and Latter-Day Saint Charities, also provided essential medical, comfort and school supplies in each country.
Using three advance fly-in teams, Pacific Partnership was able to take on extensive construction and renovation projects, involving the host nations at every step of the way. The 18 engineering civic action projects renovated a variety of structures, including a school for disabled children in Vietnam, seven clinics, and the renovation of the Nu Laran School, a six-building school and community center complex here.
In a project that required more than a year of planning and three months to complete, Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 drilled three wells in Cambodia, providing thousands of people with readily available fresh drinking water.
“The numbers of people we were able to see and projects completed really only tell part of the story,” Franchetti said. “What is most important for the long term are the strong relationships we were able to build with our host nations as well as our partner nations and [nongovernment organization] volunteers throughout this challenging mission. The skills we have all developed have made us significantly more ready to respond to a natural disaster or other humanitarian crisis in the future.”
Although Mercy is on its way home, Pacific Partnership continues. Sixty-four members of the Mercy-based Pacific Partnership team have transferred to the HMAS Tobruk and are proceeding to Papua New Guinea, the last country in this year’s Pacific Partnership mission. Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, a 25-member Australian contingent, USS Crommelin and HMA ships Labuan and Tarakan also will participate in the 10-day mission to Papua New Guinea.
Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among host nations, partner nations, U.S. government organizations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.