In this file photo, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departs Pearl Harbor earlier this month. (U.S. Navy/MU1 Pete Sutorius)

PACIFIC OCEAN — The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations May 24 in support of Pacific Partnership 2016. Now in its 11th year, Pacific Partnership is a multi-lateral, disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

“Partner nations, who invited Pacific Partnership 2016 to visit, refined our mission’s focus this year. Over the past several months we have worked side-by-side with a dozen partner nations planning disaster relief, medical and engineering projects and exchanges that will strengthen mutual understanding and partnerships in the region,” said Capt. Tom Williams, U.S. Navy, Pacific Partnership 2016 mission commander.

Pacific Partnership 2016 will conduct stops in Timor Leste, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Palau, with partners from around the Pacific including: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Non-governmental organizations also participate in the mission including Project Hope, Latter Day Saints Charities, University of California San Diego, Project Handclasp, and World Vets. Medical and civil engineering teams will collaborate with partner nations in subject matter expert exchanges, disaster relief preparedness exercises and community relations projects.

Pacific Partnership began in response to the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia. Along with other nations, the United States deployed U.S. Navy assets, including Mercy, which later returned to the region in 2006 for the first Pacific Partnership mission.

“This year’s mission will operate where natural disasters are a common challenge for all partner nations. Pacific Partnership’s aim is to bring partner nations together to prepare in a time of calm so we can effectively respond when a crisis does occur,” said Williams.

Mercy, homeported in San Diego, California is 894 feet long and is outfitted to provide mobile acute and surgical medical services in disaster or humanitarian relief efforts. Hospital capabilities include a wide range of life-saving surgical procedures and blood bank services to diagnostic x-ray or laboratory services. The team of medical professionals include doctors, nurses, technicians and support staff who provide the full spectrum of care in surgical specialties, internal medicine, radiology, dental prosthetics and eye health among many others.