SAMAR, Philippines (June 28, 2012) - Crew members aboard Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) transport more than 200 host country patients to and from shore daily in support of Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12).

Currently providing aid in the Philippines, the Mercy’s crew members operate two 33-foot utility boats, 12 to 16 hours per day, ferrying passengers from ship to shore and back on small boats, called Band Aid boats.

MSC Able Body Seaman Jeffrey Ginogino, a small boat deckhand, said Band Aid boats and helicopters are the two main sources of transportation to get from ship to shore and back.

“If we were not here to transport people on a daily basis it would make accomplishing our mission very difficult because our helicopters have a limited amount of capacity to transport people and supplies,” he said.

At a length of 272 meters and 10 meter draft, Mercy’s large size forces the ship to remain offshore. Therefore, Band-Aid boats provide a vital transport function that links the mission to the aid projects ashore.

Ginogino said the MSC crew enjoys their role of providing support to PP12.

“I love helping people in any way I can,” he said. “Having the opportunity to see patients board and then disembark USNS Mercy after being medically treated is very rewarding.”

Lita Padilla, a mother escorting her daughter to USNS Mercy for treatment, said she had a very welcoming experience from the crewmembers aboard her Band Aid boat when transiting to the hospital ship.

“The crew members operating the vessel were very kind because they went out of their way to carry my daughter to ensure she made it aboard safely,” she said. “Then they provided her with food and water when she was hungry.”

Ginogino said some crew members participating in PP12 are Filipino by birth, and are enjoying the opportunity to return and give aid to their people.

“I’m originally from the Philippines, so it’s great to see the smiles on my people and how much they appreciate what we’re doing to assist them during PP12,” he said.

Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission designed to work by, with and through host and partner nations, non-government organizations and international agencies to build partnership and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters.

For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.