DILI, Timor-Leste - Hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) concluded operations in Timor-Leste Aug. 24, marking the end of the ship’s participation in Pacific Partnership 2010. Mercy left San Diego on May 1 and will return its homeport of San Diego in late September.

“It is hard to believe that just 11 days ago we opened Pacific Partnership 2010 in Timor-Leste,” said Capt. Lisa M. Franchetti, Pacific Partnership 2010 mission commander, during the mission’s closing ceremony. “We should all take great pride in what we have accomplished in such a short time.”

Franchetti also thanked Timorese officials and volunteers for their efforts to ensure the mission was a success.

“Watching Pacific Partnership 2010 develop from a simple vision of what ‘could be’ to the reality of seeing our collective teams in action has been a rewarding experience for me and everyone involved,” she said.

Timor-Leste Military Chief Of Staff, Col. Falur Rate Laek was extremely pleased with this year’s mission, the fourth visit of this kind to his country.

“This cooperation is a continuation of previous cooperations, but this year builds greatly upon the others,” said Laek. “All of the activities were performed successfully, and the work has been fruitful.”

During the four-and-a-half month deployment the Pacific Partnership team conducted humanitarian and civic action activities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste.

Capt. David Bradshaw, Master of Mercy, was thrilled with the mission.

“Mercy is operated by the Military Sealift Command and has a crew of 67 Civilian Mariners, 13 of whom have been on board Mercy for all of her Pacific Partnership missions, as well as the response to the Indonesian Tsunami in 2004-5,” said Bradshaw.

In addition to the civilian mariners, for Pacific Partnership Mercy was manned with over 1,000 personnel from all four U.S. military services and 10 partner nations, including Australia, Canada, Cambodia, France, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Embarked non-governmental organizations included East-Meets West, International Relief Teams, Latter-day Saint Charities, Operation Smile, Project Hope, Hope Worldwide, UCSD Pre-Dental Society, Vets Without Borders, and World Vets. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship Kunisaki and Royal Australian Navy HMA Ships Labuan, Tarakan, and Tobruk also participated in various phases of Pacific Partnership.

Using a unique combination of conducting surgery on board and setting up multiple health care clinics ashore each day, the Pacific Partnership medical team was able to treat more than 101,000 patients in the four countries, including over 20,000 in Timor-Leste. On board Mercy, the surgical team performed 775 life-changing surgeries during the deployment, ranging from cataract removal and cleft palate/lip repair to orthopedic surgery and other surgical procedures not readily available to the people served.

According to Capt. Jeffery Paulson, the Medical Treatment Facility’s commanding officer, “Pacific Partnership 2010 embodied a spirit of collaboration among all participants, from patients, to partner nation colleagues, to U.S. military and non-military staff. We worked as a team, learning from one another and establishing a solid foundation for future efforts involving humanitarian assistance or disaster relief.”

As part of the medical outreach effort, more than 58,000 pairs of eyeglasses and sunglasses were also distributed at medical civic action projects. The dental services provided on board Mercy and at the clinical outreach sites provided care for 1,505 patients. A notable example of integrated medical care occurred as the audiology department identified children with treatable ear problems on shore and brought them on board Mercy for care by the ear/nose/throat surgeon. The Biomedical Equipment Repair team repaired 124 pieces of equipment, an estimated repair value of $5.8 million.

In addition, the Pacific Partnership team conducted a series of extremely well received Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEE) in each country, on topics requested by the host nation during the planning process. These events, held on board Mercy and ashore in the Dili area, covered a wide variety of topics including first aid, nursing, cardiology, orthopedics, nutrition, disaster response, water and food safety, and public health promotion. More than 11,000 hours of exchange classes were attended by 2,350 service providers across the four countries.

Sixty community service projects, the majority of them at schools and orphanages, and 6 major performances by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band throughout the four countries provided additional opportunities to strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and host nations. Donations from Project Handclasp, the Navy’s program which coordinates transportation and delivery of donated humanitarian, educational, and goodwill material to those in need abroad, and Latter-day Saint Charities, also provided essential medical, comfort, and school supplies to each of the countries visited.

Using three advance fly-in teams, Pacific Partnership was able to take on extensive construction and renovation projects, involving the host nation at every step of the way. The eighteen engineering civic action projects renovated a variety of structures, including a school for disabled children in Vietnam, seven clinics, and the renovation of the Nu Laran School, a six-building school and community center complex in Dili, Timor-Leste. In a project that required over a year of planning and three months to complete, U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 drilled three wells in Cambodia, providing thousands of people with readily available fresh drinking water.

“The numbers of people we were able to see and projects completed really only tell part of the story,” said Franchetti. “What is most important for the long term are the strong relationships we were able to build with our host nations as well as our partner nations and NGO volunteers throughout this challenging mission. The skills we have all developed have made us significantly more ready to respond to a natural disaster or other humanitarian crisis in the future.”

Although Mercy is on her way home, Pacific Partnership continues. Sixty-four from the Mercy-based Pacific Partnership team have transferred over to the HMAS Tobruk (LSH 50) and are proceeding to Papua New Guinea – the last mission country. Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE, a 25-person Australian contingent, USS Crommelin (FFG 37), and HMA Ships Labuan and Tarakan will also participate in the ten-day mission there.

Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among host nations, partner nations, U.S. government organizations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.