USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) sits at anchor off the coast of Roxas City, July 21. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Trevor Andersen)

ROXAS CITY, Philippines - The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Roxas City, Philippines, Aug. 2 after completing a 16-day mission stop for Pacific Partnership 2015.

During the first stop of the Philippines mission, U.S., partner nation, and host nation service members and non-governmental organizations conducted subject matter expert exchanges, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief symposiums, engineering projects, veterinary events and provided direct medical care in the Capiz Province.

“Being compassionate and helpful is natural to human beings,” said the Honorable Victor A. Tanco Sr., governor of the province of Capiz, during a reception held aboard Mercy. “So despite diversities and differences, there is always a place in our hearts for others and especially to those who have less in life. Maybe our differences are God’s way of reminding us not to be selfish, and instead to share our countless blessings with others. I’m referring to Pacific Partnership 2015 serving as a true example of excellence in humanitarian service.”

The mission in Roxas City saw an increase in the number of partner nations involved in the mission, with Japan, Korea and Malaysia joining the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

“For our dentists this was probably one of the ports with the best partnering in terms of having the most number of partner dentists that [our personnel] worked with,” said Mercy’s Director of Surgical Services Cmdr. Marion Henry. “They brought partners on board to the dental clinic here on Mercy, and taking care of patients together working side-by-side there was a high level of partnership and exchange.”

Henry said the same side-by-side interaction also occurred during surgical procedures and nursing services provided to patients.

“Similarly in the operating rooms we had not just Philippine surgeons, but we had a large number of surgeons from our other partner nations. We had Japanese and Koreans working with us so that almost every surgical procedure had a multinational surgical team there,” said Henry. “Additionally, the Filipino nurses who came on board to be our translators and to work with us in all areas were extremely helpful and very involved. They had a high level of nursing skill and medical knowledge, so they were a delight to work with.”

Engineers from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Japan Self Defense Force built a school building from the ground up. In addition, engineers from the Navy, Air Force, and Armed Forces of the Philippines built a health center and refurbished three school buildings that were damaged during Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

“Your sincerest endeavors reflect that we do not have to be in office to render assistance to others,” Tanco said. “Rather, we only have to be emphatic and show our love and compassion through utmost dedication and earnest commitment in service. Your humanitarian assistance which primarily reached the less fortunate Capizenos, made a difference in their perception of life because of your commitment to uplift the lives of others. You motivated us to hope, to dream, and to realize the beauty of sharing and loving as well as it inspired us to have a positive outlook on life. As this mission draws to a close, the provincial government of Capiz would deeply like to thank you for being a partner in this mission to uplift the people of Capiz.”

See photos of the team's work in the U.S. Pacific Fleet Flickr stream.

Mercy will continue to its next mission stop in Subic Bay, Philippines, and then proceed to Vietnam.

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, PP15 has provided critical infrastructure development to host nations through the completion of more than 180 engineering projects.

Non-governmental organizations 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.