The Fiji Police Band welcomes USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) with a musical performance upon the ship's arrival in Suva, June 7. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Peter Reft)

SUVA, Fiji - The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in Suva June 7 for its first mission port visit of Pacific Partnership 2015, making this the first visit to Fiji by a U.S. Navy vessel in nine years.

Pacific Partnership is a joint effort between the United States and foreign militaries, non-governmental organizations and partner-nation support organizations to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian and civic assistance, as well as veterinary, medical, dental and civil engineering support.

“We’re excited to work alongside our Fijian partners to improve our collective ability to respond to natural disasters,” said Capt. Chris Engdahl, PP15 mission commander. “We look forward to learning as much as we can from our friends in this part of the Pacific theater.”

During mission events, multinational military and civilian personnel will work together to conduct surgical screenings, dental screenings, health fairs for medical education, as well as conduct basic life support courses. Additionally, Fiji and Mercy will host several subject matter expert exchanges and classes on a wide range of topics including mass casualty procedures, public health, infectious disease and basic life support. Personnel aboard Mercy will also have the opportunity to volunteer for community outreach events which will include activities such as face painting, rugby, and coloring for families and children.

“Mercy and our embarked partners nations and NGO personnel have spent months planning this mission. We’re thrilled to put all of that hard work into motion as we collectively work with the Fijian people to improve this region’s disaster preparedness,” said Engdahl.

Civil engineering projects include the construction of two schools created from the ground up. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11; Amphibious Construction Battalion One; U.S. Air Force Red Horse Engineers; Japan Self Defense Force engineers and Republic of Fiji Military Force engineers will work together on the construction of these projects.

Mercy is also scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and Vietnam for this year’s mission.

Additionally, the secondary mission platform for PP15 is the Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3), led by an expeditionary command element from the Navy’s 30th Naval Construction Regiment from Port Hueneme, California.

Now in its tenth iteration, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. While training for crisis conditions, Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals. Additionally, the mission has provided critical infrastructure development to host nations through the completion of more than 180 engineering projects.

Pacific Partnership 2015 supporting partners include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Canada, Timor Leste, Fiji, and France. Non-governmental organizations also participating are Project Hope, Operation Smile, Latter Day Saints Charities, University of California San Diego, University of Virginia, University of Hawaii, Project Handclasp, and World Vets.

Mercy is a converted San Clemente-class supertanker with a length of 894 feet. In its deployed state, the hospital ship carries up to 1,215 medical personnel and provides full hospital capabilities and services, including surgery, radiology, optometry, dermatology, physical therapy, dialysis, a pharmacy, blood bank, and dental. The Mercy’s primary mission is to provide rapid, flexible and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps, Army and Air Force units deployed ashore, and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat.

Members of the Royal Australian Air Force watch as the Fiji Police Band welcomes the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) as it arrives in its first mission port for Pacific Partnership 2015. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Mark El-Rayes)