USNS Mercy sets sail starting Pacific partnership 2010

The United States Pacific Partnership 2010 program has commenced with the departure of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), from its homeport in San Diego, early May for a tour of six nations, including Indonesia.

"Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of US Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host and partner nations in Southeast Asia and Oceania," said a statement on the official website of the US embassy in Jakarta.

The mission is made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Pacific nations as well as non-governmental organizations and military personnel.

Pacific Partnership 2010 will visit six nations during the five-month deployment. USNS Mercy is the lead ship and will visit Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste, while two additional Navy ships will visit Palau and Papua New Guinea.

At each of the visits, military and civilian personnel will participate in civic action projects and community service engagements, all part of the goodwill the ships will bring to the nations.

"This is clearly a mission that develops partner nation capabilities, operating with host nations and our allies to provide assistance in developing the ability to respond during a time of crisis," said US Navy Vice Admiral Richard W. Hunt, commander, US 3rd Fleet, who was on hand to bid the crew farewell.

USNS Mercy was originally built and used as an oil supertanker but was subsequently delivered to the Navy's Military Sealift Command in Dec. 1986. It has since been outfitted as a fully functional hospital ship.

More recently, Mercy came out of the shipyard in San Francisco in March, where it was refurbished and updated to best serve the mission this year. The ship has a full spectrum of surgical and medical services, is capable of maintaining up to 5,000 units of blood, and has a total patient capacity of 1,000 beds.

At each visit the ship makes, teams of military and civilian specialists will deliver valuable medical, dental, biomedical repair, engineering, and veterinary services based on the needs, as identified by the host nations.

A majority of these services are done at sites in the country, however some services, such as surgery, are done onboard the Mercy.