USNS Mercy and USNS Millinocket To Depart Hawaii for Pacific Partnership Deployment

USNS Mercy 131

Sailors “Man The Rails” as USNS Mercy comes into Pearl Harbor.

The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and the Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) are scheduled to depart May 27 for a four-month deployment in support of the Navy’s Pacific Partnership 2015.

The tenth iteration of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s annual Pacific Partnership mission will take place in the Southeast Asia and Oceania regions over a four-month period beginning in late May.

Host nations will include Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Vietnam.

Getting flown out to the USNS Mercy

Getting flown out to the USNS Mercy

Working at the invitation of each host nation, U.S. Naval forces will be joined by U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force personnel as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and regional partners including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Canada, Timor Leste, Fiji and France to improve maritime security, conduct humanitarian assistance, and strengthen disaster response preparedness.

Isolation chambers inside the USNS Mercy

Isolation chambers inside the USNS Mercy

Born out of the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami that swept through parts of Southeast Asia, Pacific Partnership began as a military-led humanitarian response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters.  Building on the success and goodwill of this operation, the hospital ship USNS Mercy returned to the region in 2006 for the inaugural Pacific Partnership mission.  The mission staff expanded to include partner nation militaries and NGOs working to increase the disaster relief capabilities of Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.  Since then, Pacific Partnership has grown in scope and size.

U.S. Navy Capt. Christopher Engdahl, commander of Destroyer Squadron 9, based in Everett, Washington, will lead this year’s mission from Mercy.  USNS Millinocket will be deploying on the Pacific Partnership mission for the first time, with embarked elements of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment.

Partner nation militaries and government agencies, NGOs and host nation planning efforts have focused on collaborative efforts with professionals in the fields of medicine, dentistry, veterinary, public health services, engineering and disaster response.

For more information on Pacific Partnership, visit the official Pacific Partnership website at:

USNS Mercy Arrives Back in Hawaii Following Pacific Partnership 2012

Back in May, I was flown out to the USNS Mercy as it began it’s Pacific Partnership 2012 and I got to ride in with the ship as it came in to Pearl Harbor.

This was actually the second time I had a chance to visit the Mercy but this was the first time I got to visit her out at sea and actually ride with her into Pearl Harbor.

Yesterday, the Mercy returned to Pearl Harbor following it’s five month deployment during Pacific Partnership 2012.

Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12), embarked aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), arrived in Pearl Harbor Sept. 2 as it nears completion of a nearly five-month deployment, the largest annual humanitarian and civic assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific.

Following the visit to Hawaii, Mercy will transit to her homeport of San Diego, returning in mid-September.

While in Hawaii, Mercy will detach personnel and unload equipment that played a critical role in providing medical, dental, engineering and veterinary services to the four host nations of Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia during PP12.

Sarah Sanderlin, a member of the University of Hawaii Nursing and Engineering Schools Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) team aboard Mercy, said the Hawaii contingent will be disembarking to return back to family, friends and normal civilian life after providing vital medical and engineering support, especially in the area of subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE).

“This trip has been a chance of a lifetime for me,” said Sanderlin. “I have a different perspective of life around the world and a better understanding of the world now. Now that I am returing home, I want to be able to remember the places we have been as something more than just a great trip. I want to teach my kids how the rest of the world lives and what their perspective is of the U.S.

“Although returning back to a normal routine will be challenging, I am excited to return back to some of the normal things back home.”

At the invitation of the host nations, PP12 brought the expertise of U.S. service members and personnel from 13 partner nation militaries and 23 Non-Governmental Organizations to treat and evaluate more than 49,000 people.

SMEEs were a large focus of this year’s mission including joint surgeries, medical and veterinary care, culinary exchanges and cultural learning. Additionally, 887 surgeries were performed, more than 7,000 animals were treated, 13 buildings were built or refurbished and 104 community service projects were completed with 244 pallets of requested supplies were donated to host nations.

PP12 Mission Commander Capt. Jim Morgan said during the closing ceremony in Cambodia that the really important parts of this mission are the professional and cultural exchanges between PP12 participants and the host and partner nations.

“It’s through increased understanding and trust that we will all work better and more efficiently together – not if, but when – a natural disaster strikes,” said Morgan.

Pacific Partnership, an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet sponsored humanitarian and civic assistance mission now in its seventh year, brings together U.S. military personnel, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build stronger relationships and build disaster response capabilities throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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Visiting One of the Largest Trauma Facilities in the United States… And it Floats! OH MERCY!

The USNS Mercy at sea in a picture provided to us by the folks on the ship.

Wow… what a day!  Yesterday I got a chance to tour the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship that is moored in Pearl Harbor for the weekend before traveling to Guam.

Mission of the Mercy:

Primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare.  Mercy’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations.

We began the day by meeting about 15-20 folks that are fairly active in social media and in particular Twitter at the Pearl Harbor Pass Headquarters.

We then carpooled in Pacific Fleet vans onto Pearl Harbor where we were greeted by folks that would be giving us the tour.

They explained the general guidelines of this tour and then asked if there were any questions before we began.  Of course I had to ask if there was anything that we couldn’t take pictures of, because when I toured the USS Chung Hoon, they wouldn’t let us take pictures of the combat operations center.

We boarded the ship and then began the tour.

I of course seemed to be following everyone and holding up the pace of the tour as usual.

I didn’t really know where we were heading to, so I just followed the pack

I don’t know how many flights of stairs we headed up…

But all of a sudden we ended up at the “Bridge” of the ship and got to meet the Commanders of the USNS Mercy.

Commodore Lisa M. Franchetti, Captain David C. Bradshaw and Captain Jeffrey W. Paulson at that point explained a few things about the USNS Mercy and it’s missions.

“When not deployed, Mercy is kept in reduced operating status in San Diego where a small crew of civil service mariners and Navy medical personnel maintain the ship in a high state of readiness.  When activated, Mercy can transition to full operating status in five days.”

We left the “Restricted Area” and then continued on with our tour

We got out on to the highest point of the Mercy

Where we had a great view of Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial

As well as the “Mighty Mo”

And of course I got scoldings from our tour guide for trying to get too close to the helicopter that was on board.

“Patients arrive aboard primarily by helicopter and sometimes by small boat.”

“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.”

“In Spring of 1987, the Mercy conducted a four-month humanitarian assistance and training deployment to the Republic of the Philippines and other South Pacific Islands.  Mercy’s Naval medical personnel provided medical attention ranging from outpatient care to major surgery to more then 73,000 people.

Mercy was also deployed to Southeast Asia after the 2004 Tsunami where medical personnel treated more than 107,000 patients, performed 466 surgeries, distributed 11,555 pairs of eyeglasses and performed more than 6,900 dental procedures.

Patients are assessed for medical treatment in casualty receiving and routed to surgery or other services depending on their medical condition.

The USNS Mercy is the first of two Mercy-class hospital ships.

The Mercy was a former Oil Tanker that got re-outfitted to become a floating hospital basically and it was delivered to the US Navy in 1986.  Because it was a former Oil Tanker, they were able to make the inside nice and wide and it actually gave the appearance of an actual hospital and one person even made a comment that it smelled like Tripler Hospital.

I had a great time on board the ship and learned a lot about it.  It was even greater meeting some folks that I have only met online and finally getting a chance to meet them in real life!  Just wish I would have had more time to talk to them!

You can click on any of the pictures below for a larger picture.


I had to steal this Photo from Jasmine Guevara