In this file photo, hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) sits anchored off the coast of Fiji during the 2015 mission. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Mark El-Rayes)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Pacific Partnership 2016 is taking shape as mission staff, partners from participating countries, and non-governmental organizations gathered in San Diego, March 26-30, to complete the final planning conference for the 2016 mission.

"It has been impressive to see this year's mission planning develop and progress," said Capt. Melanie Merrick, commanding officer of the Military Treatment Facility on USNS Mercy (T-AH-19). "Throughout the planning conferences, the U.S. military, multi-agency partners, and host and partner nation planners came together to build a comprehensive and exciting mission package for 2016. We are now ready to execute the mission this summer."

Now in its 11th year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

This year's mission will be led by Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23, embarked on the hospital ship USNS Mercy, and will include more than 600 military and civilian personnel from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

Pacific Partnership 2016 will focus on developing and strengthening partner-nation relationships, preparing for all hazards, and building shared knowledge between the U.S. and host nations for each mission stop.

Pacific Partnership also capitalizes on multilateral cooperation and partnerships between government and non-government organizations to increase capabilities in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and preparedness for natural and man-made disasters.

"We are most excited to work with our partners, and we are looking forward to working together on the mission to build strong relationships," said Cmdr. Mikio Ozawa of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, who led planning for a segment of this year's mission.

The Pacific Partnership mission can trace its origins to the humanitarian response to one of the world's most catastrophic natural disasters, the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from primarily a direct care mission to one focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.

Pacific Partnership 2016 will include mission stops in five partner nations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The partner nations will be announced before the mission begins in May.