Hospital ship USNS Mercy leaves San Diego for aid mission in Pacific
The hospital ship USNS Mercy recently sailed out of San Diego Bay to start its annual mission of disaster preparedness and humanitarian aid to Pacific nations.
The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are among the exercise’s participants. Joining for the first time are representatives from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, according to a Friday announcement from the country’s Joint Staff.
For 17 years Pacific Partnership has brought together medical professionals from several nations to provide health care and other services in Micronesia, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and the Philippines. Past missions have lasted up to 150 days.
“Pacific Partnership is a unifying mission that builds trust among nations to work efficiently together in preparing to respond in crisis,” Capt. Hank Kim, the mission’s commander, said in a Task Force 73 news release May 3.
Last year’s mission included a humanitarian aid and disaster relief workshop with Taiwanese disaster management experts in Palau, where participants learned about early warning systems, search and rescue and other topics.
Born in response to the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia after a 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia’s coast, Pacific Partnership has evolved to focus on bolstering ties with other nations rather than only providing direct medical care.
The Mercy was joined in the past by its sister ship, the USNS Comfort, which is undergoing a $26 million overhaul in Mobile, Alabama, according to an April 29 report by Alabama news website AL.com.
The 894-foot ships are former oil tankers gutted and remade into floating, 1,000-bed hospitals.