Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
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Laura Seal (202) 685-5055
May 3, 2010
MSC hospital ship departs for humanitarian mission
Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Naval Station San Diego May 1, beginning its part in Pacific Partnership 2010 - a five-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Mercy is crewed by 67 civil service mariners working for MSC who operate and navigate the ship while Navy planners and medical personnel plan and execute the mission.
Pacific Partnership 2010 is a mission that will take medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and civic assistance projects to Southeast Asia and Oceania to build on relationships that have been developed during previous similar missions including Mercy's participation in international relief efforts following the December 2004 tsunami that struck Southeast Asia and Mercy's 2006 and 2008 humanitarian and civic assistance deployments to the region.
"This is an outstanding opportunity to do good throughout the world and for our country," said Navy Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, in a departure announcement on board.
Throughout the 2010 Pacific Partnership mission, the 894-foot Mercy will serve as a platform from which U.S. and partner nation militaries and non-governmental organizations will coordinate and carry out humanitarian and civic activities in each country. Two other U.S. Navy and partner nation ships will make additional visits to Palau and Papua New Guinea.
MSC's 67 civil service mariners are vital to the mission's success. They navigate the ship to each mission stop and provide the freshwater and electricity needed to run the shipboard hospital and to support the mission personnel living and working aboard.
In addition, the civil service mariners play a critical role in mission success by operating two 33-foot utility boats to transport patients and mission personnel between ship's anchorage and shore. Mercy is too large to pull pierside at any of the mission stops. The operation of these small boats, which can carry more than twice as many passengers as Mercy's two embarked helicopters, will greatly increase the number of people who will benefit from the mission.
"The hospital ship missions are some of MSC's most unique and challenging missions," said Capt. David Bradshaw, Mercy's civil service master who has overall responsibility for the ship and the safety of all of its passengers. "Mercy and Comfort are the biggest ships MSC operates. More than 1,000 people can be on board at one time. But the hospital ship missions are also known as the most rewarding. We're vital to the host countries."
The deployment will also foster new relationships when Mercy stops in Cambodia for the first time in mid-June. In addition to providing the mission's services, Mercy will be returning three Cambodian antiquities of historical and religious significance to the country. The artifacts, which are estimated to be more than 1,000 years old, were recovered from the black market by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who worked with the U.S. Navy and Federal Bureau of Investigation to arrange their delivery back to Cambodia via Mercy.
"I am happy to be able to facilitate the return of these antiquities to the people of Cambodia," said Matthew Bush, Mercy's chief mate, a civil service mariner. "It's a privilege to be a part of our continuing good relations with the Cambodian people."
The mission will also include personnel from other parts of the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. State Department, USAID, eight partner nations and 17 NGOs.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces, conduct specialized missions and replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea.
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