AMBON, Indonesia - Members of Indonesia's armed forces, Tentara National Indonesia (TNI), invited those embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy(T-AH 19) to participate in Sports Day on the Navy base July 27.

Participants wore different uniforms and were from different countries, but the players banded together for one objective – kick the ball into the goal.

Sports Day is an event the TNI Navy and Army developed for recreation and friendly competition between the services. This year during the Pacific Partnership 2010 deployment, members were asked to take part in the sports competitions. Those from Mercy included U.S. military members as well as partner nations and non-governmental organization volunteers.

“These kinds of events are important, because they allow us to foster and strengthen friendships and relationships with the people of Ambon and overall the people of Indonesia,” said Navy Chaplain Lt. Derrick Horne, embarked aboard Mercy, whose homeport is Naval Base San Diego. “The sports we participated in today were soccer and badminton,” said Horne. “These sports are very popular in Indonesia and great fun to play.”

The TNI Navy and Mercy volunteers combined to form one team competing against the TNI Army.

“It was great to see the teamwork and how the two groups blended together,” said Horne. “It was like they had been playing for years.”

One of the goals of Pacific Partnership is building relationships and goodwill.

“Though the soccer game had the TNI Navy and the Mercy volunteers playing against the TNI Army, you could see the bond that was built between all three groups,” Horne said.

Horne said he believes these kinds of events should continue because they promote relationship building. The minute the players hit the field, they have a commonality and that is a love for soccer or whatever sport they might be playing together. This immediately bridges any gaps that might exist.

“It was also great to see all the smiling faces and the teamwork that developed between each group,” said Horne. “There was laughter, smiles, and pats on the back displayed from all those involved, as well as numerous pictures taken of each other.”

“We are all looking forward to the many events that we have planned here in Ambon. We will be participating in numerous orphanage visits in addition to the Sail Banda events planned, which include a mangrove planting and beach clean-up. It will be great to partner with others in these events,” Horne said.

Mercy is in Ambon participating in Sail Banda 2010, a series of events hosted by the Government of Indonesia to promote the future of small islands. Sail Banda will be held from July 24 to Aug. 17, with Mercy participated from July 26 to Aug. 3. Mercy’s participation featured medical and dental care clinics and construction projects in and around Ambon, as well as on Seram Island.

To date, Mercy has visited Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia while on Pacific Partnership 2010. The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet endeavors, Pacific Partnership is being conducted in Indonesia as a disaster relief exercise aimed at strengthening regional partnerships.