A Fijian veterinary student, left, and U.S. Navy and U.S. Army medical personnel prepare a dog for surgery at the Ministry of Agriculture building in Savusavu.

SAVUSAVU, Fiji - Animal Fiji volunteers and hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) medical personnel performed surgeries and other treatments for local pets and stray animals at the Ministry of Health and Animal Fiji clinic in Savusavu, Fiji, June 16, during Pacific Partnership 2015.

Pet owners gathered at the treatment facilities to nurse sick dogs and cats back to health and have them spayed or neutered. Mercy crewmembers and clinic volunteers offered medical services free of charge to local residents who expressed their gratitude for the veterinary teams.

“This is great for my dog Aero,” said Cathy, a Fijian resident. “And it is fortunate for us and the people of Savusavu, since this type of service is hard to get.”

Fijian and U.S. personnel treated and performed surgeries on 23 family pets and stray animals. By providing medical treatment to the animals, both the Fiji and U.S. veterinary teams gained knowledge and experience from working together.

“I loved meeting the local people and teaching them about tool sterilization, intubation, and other preparation steps for animal surgery,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Charina Hocag, a veterinary technician from the Philippines.

Hocag added she was pleased to teach animal treatment not only to Fijian veterinary students, but also U.S. Navy hospital corpsmen who had no experience in animal handling.

Army Capt. Melissa North, a veterinarian from Carson, California, performed surgeries with the aid of Fijian veterinarians.

“My favorite thing about this project was the appreciation everyone has shown and being able to work with host nation vets who have so much experience,” said North. “And they are helping me learn how to improve my surgical techniques and how to be more efficient.”

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is currently in Savusavu, Fiji for its first mission port of PP15. Pacific Partnership is in its tenth iteration and 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.