TOBELO, Indonesia - Local government officials from the North Halmahera Regency and members of the Pacific Partnership 2010 team embarked aboard the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) gathered at Hibualamo – the “Big House” – in Tobelo for opening ceremony festivities July 13.

Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet endeavors conducted as a disaster relief exercise aimed at strengthening regional partnerships and increasing interoperability with host nations, partner nations, U.S. interagency groups, and international humanitarian and relief organizations, as well as building capability to respond to a natural disaster. This is Pacific Partnership’s second visit to Indonesia.

The Bupati – or mayor – of the North Halmahera Regency, numerous local officials, Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) military members, and other distinguished guests welcomed the Pacific Partnership 2010 team with a festive ceremony which included a traditional dance performed by local children.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Pacific Partnership to return to Indonesia, building on the partnerships previously created during USNS Mercy’s response to the devastating tsunami in 2004 and return visit to Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Timor in 2006,” said Capt. Lisa M. Franchetti, Pacific Partnership 2010 mission commander. “In a very broad sense, Pacific Partnership has proved itself to be an invaluable deployment…enabling everyone involved to become better prepared to respond effectively to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis.”

Mercy’s five-day visit to the North Halmahera and Morotai Regencies will provide surgery aboard USNS Mercy, as well as a variety of medical, dental, and engineering civic action programs throughout the region. There will also be several opportunities for local people and the Pacific Partnership team to participate in sporting events, cultural exchanges, and be entertained by a performance from the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Band.

In addition to Mercy on-station off the port of Tobelo, the Royal Australian Navy will provide essential ship-to-shore logistics by having the HMAS Labuan and HMAS Tarakan join the mission. These “landing craft heavies” will serve as a “home base” for the medical and dental teams working for four days in Sangowo and Daruba in Morotai.

“As our doctors and nurses treat the sick, our engineers build, and our people interact, we hope that the friendships and relationships we create in the coming days will be sustained long into the future,” said Franchetti.

In Indonesia, Pacific Partnership 2010 brings together over 1,000 military medical and engineering professionals from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Participants also include volunteers from the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Hope Worldwide, Latter-day Saint Charities, Project Hope, University of California San Diego (UCSD) Pre-Dental Society, Vets Without Borders, and World Vets.

Pacific Partnership 2010’s visit to Indonesia constitutes phase two of a disaster relief exercise which commenced in Jakarta in November 2009. During the first phase, a table-top exercise scenario dealing with a natural disaster in the region, the team discussed plans to effectively employ USNS Mercy, KRI Dr. Soeharso, Indonesia’s Hospital Ship, and other ships from the international community. The current visit as part of Pacific Partnership 2010 represents the Fleet Exercise, or practical portion, of the exercise.