USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) sits at anchor off the coast of Da Nang, Vietnam during Pacific Partnership. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Valerie Epler)

DA NANG, Vietnam - The crew of the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) wrapped up their 10-day visit in Da Nang, Vietnam, Aug. 28, completing the ship’s last mission stop of Pacific Partnership 2015.

While in Da Nang, U.S. and Vietnamese service members and healthcare professionals worked side-by-side to conduct a variety of subject matter expert exchanges on medical and disaster relief topics, and provided direct care to Vietnamese patients during joint replacement surgeries aboard Mercy and several dental engagements in the local community.

One of the highlights of the mission in Vietnam was a restorative medicine summit, where U.S. Navy and Vietnamese military surgeons shared their experiences and insights with each other on a wide range of medical topics, including plastic and reconstructive surgery, battlefield orthopedic injuries and pain management in trauma rehabilitation.

“Of all the countries we are visiting this year, Vietnam is enabling us to maximize our subject matter expert exchanges. This is evident in the number of engagements we completed that range from symposiums of doctor-patient-doctor discussions, to the education of both healthcare workers and general public, to first aid and disaster response,” said Lt. William B. Arden, the dental department head aboard Mercy.

The Pacific Partnership mission culminated in a coastal medicine disaster drill, where Mercy medical personnel worked alongside Vietnamese doctors, nurses and emergency response personnel to demonstrate their ability to work together to transport and treat the injured during a disaster.

“This high-profile event was illustrative of why we were here. It very clearly emphasized an all hazards response, resiliency, and capacity; and it demonstrates our interoperability with Vietnam,” said Cmdr. Gregg Montalto, director of medical operations aboard Mercy. “It was witnessed by the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Health, and the Da Nang People’s Committee, along with the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. Our expertise is a small but enabling force behind the continued dialogue between U.S. and Vietnamese governments.”

This year’s Pacific Partnership is not the first time the U.S. and Vietnam have worked together on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness.

“This year’s Pacific Partnership mission in Vietnam marks the sixth year a large scale, cooperative HA/DR mission has been conducted alongside our Vietnamese partners,” said Capt. Christopher Engdahl, the mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2015. “The increasing HA/DR resiliency, cooperation, and interoperability between Vietnam and the United States ensures regional stability in the face of future natural disasters and honors the 20 year anniversary of the normalization of relationships between our two countries.”

Additionally, U.S. Navy Seabees with Amphibious Construction Battalion One and U.S. Air Force “RED HORSE” engineers spent the 10-day mission refurbishing three medical buildings and renovating a disadvantaged children’s center.

“As with all of our engineering projects thus far, it has been great working with the host nation,” said Lt. j.g. Brittni King, the officer in charge of the Seabee detachment from Amphibious Construction Battalion One. “Understanding the Vietnamese way of completing construction related tasking has allowed every engineer an opportunity to expand their depth of knowledge. Being able to learn different techniques and share different techniques is the definition of true partnership.”

The Pacific Fleet Band was also a hit in the community, where they performed for thousands of people at the city’s iconic Dragon Bridge and also at a nearby beach park. Additionally, the band played for handicapped children at a Vietnamese medical facility.

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

See photos of Pacific Partnership 2015 efforts in Vietnam in the U.S. Pacific Fleet Flickr stream.