By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 17, 2012 - The USNS Mercy's upcoming deployment as part of the Pacific Partnership medical exercise personifies the "whole of government" approach to diplomacy and military-to-military relations, the exercise's commander said here today.
The Military Sealift Command hospital ship will leave its San Diego homeport May 1, to begin Pacific Partnership 2012 to strengthen regional relationships in Southeast Asia and Oceana, Navy Capt. James Morgan said.
Morgan and the Mercy's master, Capt. Jonathan Olmsted, briefed Pentagon reporters on the mission.
The Pacific Partnership exercise is in its seventh year, and this year will visit Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Cambodia to provide medical, dental and veterinary care. The ship will spend 14 days at each port. It is the largest annual humanitarian civic assistance mission the United States sponsors in the Asia-Pacific region.
The mission seeks to build relationships among partners and host nations so each becomes more interoperable. Because the region has earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and other natural disasters -- it lies in the so-called "Ring of Fire" -- countries need the ability to work together, Morgan said. He cited the partnership's motto, "Preparing in calm to respond in crisis," as words to live by.
The ship and its civilian-mariner crew will host medical teams that will both deploy ashore and work aboard the ship to treat patients in the countries. Army and Air Force medics and Navy medical and surgical teams will be joined by specialists from other government agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.
International partners Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand also have signed on to aid the mission. The medical teams will incorporate members of nongovernmental organizations such as the East-West Center, Global Grins, Hope Worldwide, Latter-Day Saints Charities, Project Handclasp, Project Hope, the University of California at San Diego Pre-Dental Society, the University of Hawaii and World Vets, Morgan said.
The role nongovernmental organizations and the international agencies play is critical to success of Pacific Partnership 2012, Morgan said.
"The Pacific Partnership is an annual mission conducted by different people from mission to mission," he explained. "However, our NGOs continue to maintain that continuity, because they are who participate in the mission every year and maintain that continuity from one mission to the next."
In addition to the medical aspect of the mission, Pacific Partnership includes engineering projects as well as conferences and classes with local officials.
The ship is expected to return to San Diego in mid-September, Olmstead said.