Medical and dental personnel aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy got underway Tuesday from San Diego for an annual humanitarian mission in the Indo-Pacific.
Pacific Partnership 2024, the mission’s 19th iteration, is the largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness mission conducted in the region, and will take the Mercy to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Engineering, medicine and disaster response experts will work alongside hosts to complete civic-action projects, community health exchanges, medical symposiums, and disaster response training activities during the multi-month mission, the Navy said.
While Pacific Partnership originally launched in response to the December 2004 tsunami that struck southeast Asia to provide direct care, it is now more focused on facilitating regional partnerships.
“I am honored to be part of this year’s mission because this annual mission helps increase security and stability in the region, while fostering new and enduring friendships in the Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. Mark A. Melson, Pacific Partnership 2024 executive agent under U.S. Pacific Fleet and commander of Task Force 73, said in a Navy news release.
The Mercy is equipped with 800 military and civilian personnel, as well as 1,000 hospital beds.
While ship’s departure marked the beginning of Pacific Partnership 2024, last year’s iteration, Pacific Partnership 2023, remains active after launching in August in Phu Yen, Vietnam.
There, Pacific Partnership 2023 participants provided tailored medical care and community education missions, including constructing a new building for Hoa Dinh Tay Primary School and renovating other schools.
On Monday, Pacific Partnership 2023 stopped in Papua New Guinea to provide medical care, repairs to a local schoolhouse, as well as exercises on disaster response and humanitarian assistance.
“Our countries are bonded by a common interest in promoting a stable and secure Indo-Pacific by working to enhance readiness for potential hazards and responses,” Col. Craig Solomon, Papua New Guinea Defense Force Chief of Force Preparation, said in a Navy news release.
More than 1,500 personnel from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are participating in Pacific Partnership 2023.