USNS Mercy Deploys in Support of Pacific Partnership 2018
The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy departed its home port of San Diego Feb. 23 in support of the 13th Pacific Partnership mission.
Pacific Partnership is the Navy's humanitarian and civic assistance mission conducted with and through partner nations, nongovernmental organizations and other U.S. and international government agencies to execute a variety of humanitarian civic action missions in the Pacific Fleet area of responsibility.
The Mercy will visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam from February through June to provide medical, dental, veterinary, public health services, engineering and disaster response to host countries who have invited the ship to visit and provide services to the local population. More than 800 military and civilian personnel from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Peru Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom will join allied and partner nations for the mission.
Building a Foundation of Trust
"Through Pacific Partnership we are deepening integral ties with our allies and partners across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," said Navy Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, the commander of Task Force 73, the executive agent for Pacific Partnership 18. "The challenges we face with natural and manmade disasters do not respect borders or national sovereignty.”
Gabrielson added, “This dynamic mission enables many nations and subject matter experts to come together to pursue solutions to complex problems while enhancing preparations for disaster emergencies that reduce the severity of their impact. The foundation of trust created through Pacific Partnership engagement helps foster a cooperative environment that encourages collaborative approaches to improving the lives and conditions for the people of this region and beyond."
Medical, dental, civil engineering and veterinary teams will partner with each host nation to conduct civic-action projects, community health exchanges, medical symposiums and disaster response training activities. Additional community relations engagements will occur in each mission stop to enhance relationships and camaraderie with citizens of the host nations. The Mercy will also visit Japan during its return transit across the Pacific Ocean.
Mercy is joined on the Pacific Partnership mission by the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River. The Fall River will make separate mission stops in Malaysia, Palau, Thailand and Yap, supporting public diplomacy, community outreach and theater security cooperation initiatives.
“Being a part of the Pacific Partnership mission is really an amazing experience,” said civil service mariner Barron Garvey, the Mercy’s cargo officer. “What we do touches so many lives and you can’t walk away from this deployment without having been impacted by the people we help and the experiences of the mission. People always talk about making a difference, but this is where that really happens -- on a Pacific Partnership mission.
“I think about the other PP missions I have been on, and I look forward to the next one,” Garvey continued. “This really is one of the best things I have been a part of since coming to MSC.”
This Year’s Mission
Pacific Partnership began in response to one of the world's most catastrophic natural disasters, the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from emphasis on direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.
Pacific Partnership 2018 will have several other distinctions:
-- A multinational command-and-control structure will be used to include a deputy mission commander from the United Kingdom and mission chief of staff from Australia.
-- The mission will visit Sri Lanka for a second consecutive year to enhance ties with the Indian Ocean nation.
-- Pacific Partnership will continue to leverage the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, a plan backed by Executive Order 13595 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325. Integration of WPS into Pacific Partnership yields opportunities to engage with partner nations on the topic of gender integration and perspectives, as well as preparedness in dealing with vulnerable populations -- women and children, the elderly and the disabled -- during and in the aftermath of crises.
-- This year's mission will return to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, where the United States continues its legacy of strong cooperation and defense ties with these nations.
(Reporting from Combined Joint Task Force 73; Sarah Burford, Military Sealift Command Pacific; and U.S. Third Fleet contributed to this story.)