Manning the Rails – The USNS Mercy Ports in Honolulu… Pacific Partnership 2012 Kicks Off

Back in 2010, the US Navy invited me to go on board the US Navy Ship the USNS Mercy where I toured the ship with a few other folks involved in social media.

Well today, the Mercy returned to Hawaii waters and the US Navy asked me if I would like to return to the Mercy, only this time I would be meeting the Mercy out in the ocean!

Because we were scheduled to depart on a “Hele” (Military Helicopter) early in the morning, I actually spent the night before in Waikiki and then woke up early and met the folks from the Pacific Fleet that cleared us for this excursion at 5:15 am at the Navy’s Pass and ID office.

We then jumped in a Navy Public Affairs van where they brought us out to Hickham Airfield’s Air Mobility Command Passenger Terminal where we got to see what it was like to travel on stand by flights at their little mini airport terminal.

After about 30 minutes, they lead a group of eight of us into this room where we put on our skull caps (cranials) and put on emergency life vests.

They then lead us out on to the airfield where we were forbidden to take any pictures of the helicopter that they would soon be putting us on.

We boarded the helicopter and then we went off for about a 20 minute flight off the coast of Oahu and when we reached the Mercy the helicopter circled the vessel several times before we finally touched down and were taken off the helicopter.

We took off our life vests and then we were matched up with sailors that would be our escorts during the cruise back into Pearl Harbor.

After being matched up with folks, we were lead to the ships kitchen and gallery where they served us up a huge breakfast… (They eat well on these Navy ships!)

We then got to go up to the bridge of the Mercy and we met the folks that actually were in charge of steering the ship into the port… believe it or not… it was a CIVILIAN that was at the helm… Well a Civil Service Mariner just dressed in casual clothes!

After spending some time at the bridge we were lead to the flight deck where the helicopter that brought us in… was doing some maneuvers above the MERCY and then it finally touched down and the sailors secured the helicopter for the rest of the cruise into Pearl Harbor.

We were then given a more thorough tour of the ship where they showed us where they did the operations, surgeries, and even allowed us into the isolation ward!

After the group tour concluded, I got to have a personal tour with my escort where he took me around to every part of the Mercy except for the places that NO ONE was allowed to go!

At about 11:00 the Mercy got the go ahead to come into Pearl Harbor.  At that time all the sailors put on their “whites” and prepared to “Man the Rails”.

When a Navy ship comes into Pearl Harbor you will see the sailors lined up on both sides of the ship standing at arms length.

Commanding Officer Capt. Tim Hinman

I was told that this was more symbolic then anything and that the sailors due this in part to honor those that lost their lives on the USS Arizona so when they pass the Arizona Memorial there was almost like a moment of silence as all the sailors paid their respect.

I was talking to one of the sailors and he mentioned how excited they were to get this mission underway.  I then realized that many of these sailors had never even been to Pearl Harbor before and they were very excited to be coming here.  One of the sailors asked me if the big pink building on the side of the island was where they played the pro-bowl and I was actually surprised that he didn’t know that was the Tripler Medical Hospital.

Going on the Mercy the first time was pretty special… but this was a trip actually being flown out to the Mercy, landing on it, and then coming into Pearl Harbor with the ship will definitely be an experience that I will never forget.

Here is a coin I was able to get from the ship’s store after begging and pleading with them to open the ships store!

Lucky #7

Here is the Press Release that was given to us on the ship:

Pacific Ocean – Military Sealift Command’s hospital ship, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in Pearl Harbor bringing with it U.S. Pacific Fleet’s embarked humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) mission, today on May 9th.

“This mission boils down to bringing people together,” said Mission Commander, Navy Capt. James Morgan, commander of the San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron Seven.  “It is about building trust over many years so we can better collectively respond in crisis.  Additionally, it will further demonstrate the U.S.’s long-standing commitment to working with our friends in the Asia-Pacific Region.”

While in port, the mission will on load personnel and equipment in support of what is now the largest annual HCA mission in the Asia-Pacific region.

This year’s mission is scheduled to last four-and-a-half months, and is now in its seventh year.  It will bring together the expertise of approximately 12 partner nations working together, at the invitation of, and in coordination with the host nations of Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Pacific Partnership continues building and fostering enduring relationships by working through and with host nations, partner nations and non-government organizations (NGOs) to enhance our collective ability and capacity to respond to natural disasters.

Additionally, Pacific Partnership personnel will conduct tailored civic assistance projects (CAPs), which build relationships and capacity in the areas of medical, dental, veterinary and civil engineering.  It will also conduct community service and subject matter expert exchanges that reinforce the importance of mutual support and learning about cultures, capabilities, and practices.

Pacific Partnership 2012 is led by three different element commanders: Capt. James Morgan, mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2012 and commander of San Diego-based Squadron Seven; Capt. Jonathan Olmsted, of the Military Sealift Command and Mercy’s civil service master; and, Capt. Timothy Hinman, commander of the medical treatment facility which is responsible for the hospital and providing care aboard Mercy and on shore.

“We are bringing together prominent national experts, with international reputations, and local physicians to share information and work together on a range of multidimensional aspects of medicine and patient care,” said Hinman.  “This is true capacity building at its very finest.”

Mercy’s scheduled May 1st departure was temporarily postponed due to a mechanical issue, but the delay will have no impact to an on-time arrival in the mission’s first host-country nation of Indonesia.


They also gave us the following information regarding the Host and Partner Nations of the Pacific Partnership 2012:

It is common for multiple countries to respond to a disaster. Past real-world missions and associated cooperation further validate the need for countries throughout the Pacific to carry out missions like Pacific Partnership, which enhance the interoperability between militaries, government agencies, and civil organizations, enabling faster and more efficient responses to disasters.

Partner Nations play a critical role in all Pacific partnership missions.  Working with our Partner Nations help to strengthen relationships amongst the Pacific-Rim countries while fostering new friendships and enhancing training through both information and technical exchanges.

Pacific Partnership 2012 will sail to the host nation countries of Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

List of Partner Nations: Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and South Korea.

Pacific Partnership 2012: Preparing in calm to respond in crisis!

USNS Mercy Characteristics:

  • Length: 894 feet (272 meters)
  • Speed: 17.5 Knots
  • Delivered to U.S. Navy: Dec. 19, 1986
  • Crew Size:  Civil Service Mariners – Deployed 65, Not Deployed 18.  Navy Medical Personnel – Deployed 1,215, Not Deployed: 58

Mercy has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States.  The hospital has a full spectrum of surgical and medical services including four X-rays, one CT Scan Unit, a dental suite, an optometry and lens laboratory, a physical therapy center, a pharmacy, an angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants.  Mercy is capable of maintaining up to 5,000 units of blood.

Here is a list of Non-Governmental Organizations that help to collaborate with this effort:

  • Project Handclasp
  • Project Hope
  • World Vets
  • UC San Diego Pre-Dental Society
  • University of Hawaii (UH) Nursing School
  • UH Engineering School
  • Global Grins
  • Vietnam Medical Assistance Program
  • Help for Orphans
  • Hope Worldwide
  • Islamic Medical Society
  • Calbayog Rotary Club
  • GIZ
  • Compassion Flower
  • Vietnam Women’s Union
  • M’lop Tapang
  • The Starfish Project
  • Cambodian Children’s Painting Project
  • Hope Worldwide

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6 Responses

  1. Keep Up the good work! Aloha to you all!

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