USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) transits through the South China Sea July 13 while en route to Da Nang, Vietnam. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Brittney Vella)

DA NANG, Vietnam - Pacific Partnership 2016 (PP16) is underway in Da Nang following the July 15 arrival of USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Shimokita (LST 4002), which will be joined by the Vietnam People's Navy ship Khanh Hoa in this year's disaster preparedness mission.

This is the third consecutive year and seventh time in 11 years the Pacific Partnership mission has taken place in Vietnam’s provinces and cities.

Participating in this year's events are many partner nations, including Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Palau, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Vietnam, with the purpose of improving disaster preparedness and regional responsiveness.

The Government of Vietnam approved Da Nang City as the destination for PP16. The city has collaborated with Central Government agencies and PP16 partners to organize the two-week event, with the aim of meeting the needs of Vietnam and the city, and enhancing humanitarian cooperation and friendship exchange that contribute to promoting U.S. - Vietnam national defense cooperation.

While in Vietnam, PP16 personnel will work side-by-side with Vietnamese civilian medical officers, pay a courtesy call to leaders of the Da Nang People’s Committee, participate in civil engineering projects, exchange expertise with military medical staff on the Khanh Hoa, as well as participate in community projects. In addition, Da Nang City will organize Da Nang’s Foreigners Football Cup with the U.S. and Japanese PP16 teams in attendance.

Lt. Cmdr. Jason Dao, the American officer in charge of the Vietnam mission, anticipates that this year’s multi-national program will augment previous years' collaboration and training opportunities. "The scope of the mission is slightly different from previous years’ missions. While PP16 retains the traditional humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HA/DR), medical, engineering and community relation projects, this year’s mission includes a Japanese ship the Shimokita and the Vietnam People’s Navy's Khanh Hoa."

In a continuation of the crisis management and response activities from PP15, PP16 personnel and those from Vietnam's side will conduct a seven day humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) workshop that culminates in a crisis management drill.

The drill includes disaster preparedness, national and regional response, coastal medicine and maritime search and rescue. In addition, Vietnamese partners, together with the U.S. Navy and Marines, will complete renovations of Hoa Phu Primary School, Chinh Gian Medical Station, Rang Dong Kindergarten and Tuong Lai Specialized School. A Pacific Fleet Band will perform at Bach Dang Street and Bien Dong Park, and PP16 personnel will provide lifeguard training and English conversational skills to members of Da Nang's community.

“PP16 serves as a concrete example of the mutually beneficial activities President Obama discussed in his May visit to Vietnam," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius. "PP16 builds trust and evidences the U.S. commitment to Vietnam and the region. We want to help Vietnam succeed and we are here to stay.” U.S.-Vietnam relations have developed positively, meeting the interests of the two sides’ people and contributing to maintaining peace, stability and development cooperation in the region, he added.

After Vietnam, Pacific Partnership 16 continues onto Malaysia and Indonesia.