The U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed her homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Feb. 23 for the Pacific Partnership 2018 mission.
Pacific Partnership is Indo-Asia-Pacific’s largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness mission. This maritime operation will help improve disaster response preparedness, resiliency and capacity while enhancing partnerships with participating nations and civilian humanitarian organizations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Led by the embarked staff of Commander, Destroyer Squadron 31, Mercy and the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4), along with more than 800 military and civilian personnel from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Peru, and Japan, will join allied and partner nation militaries for the 13th Pacific Partnership mission.
Mercy will make mission stops in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Vietnam while Fall River will visit Yap, Palau, Malaysia, and Thailand. 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. Following the mission stops, Mercy will also visit Japan during its return transit across the Pacific Ocean.
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 (WPS), a plan backed by Executive Order 13595 and UN 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, children, elderly and 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.
USNS Mercy (T-AH-19)
USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) is the lead ship of her class of hospital ships in non-commissioned service with the United States Navy.
Her sister ship is the USNS Comfort (T-AH-20). The Mercy class hospital ships are the third largest ships in the U.S. Navy Fleet by length, surpassed only by the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class and Gerald R. Ford-class supercarriers.
In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, USNS Mercy and her crew do not carry any offensive weapons, though defensive weapons are available. Firing upon the Mercy would be considered a war crime.
Mercy was built as an oil tanker, SS Worth, by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, in 1976. Starting in July 1984, she was renamed and converted to a hospital ship by the same company. Launched on 20 July 1985, USNS Mercy was placed in service on 8 November 1986. She has a raised forecastle, a transom stern, a bulbous bow, an extended deckhouse with a forward bridge, and a helicopter-landing deck with a flight control facility.
Her primary mission is to provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore, Army and Air Force units deployed ashore, and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat. Secondarily, she provides mobile surgical hospital service for use by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster or humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incident to these missions or peacetime military operations.
USNS Mercy, homeported in San Diego, is normally in reduced operating status. Her crew remains a part of the staff of Naval Medical Center San Diego until ordered to sea, at which time they have five days to fully activate the ship to a NATO Role III Medical Treatment Facility, the highest only to shore based fixed facilities outside of the theater of operations.
Like most “USNS” Ships, Mariners from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) are responsible for navigation, propulsion, and most deck duties on board.