Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and U.S. Navy personnel transport a simulated patient aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during a Pacific Partnership search and rescue exercise. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Trevor Kohlrus)

KUANTAN, Malaysia - Pacific Partnership 2016 and Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) personnel collaborated to execute a search and rescue exercise (SAREX) that ended with a casualty response drill aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), Aug. 14.

During the exercise participants came together to plan and execute a coordinated response to a simulated passenger vessel in distress during a severe typhoon in Kuantan, Malaysia.

“This event simulated the rescue of personnel from a distressed vessel at sea, the rescue of casualties in the water and transfer of casualties to Mercy,” said Lt. Sarah Cosgrove, Pacific Partnership 2016 SAREX lead planning officer.

The vessel in distress (simulated by a Royal Malaysian Navy vessel) initiated the exercise by making a distress call to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). The MMEA deployed a search and rescue unit to evacuate casualties from the sea using an MMEA H-65 Dauphin helicopter.

Role players from the MAF were hoisted from the water and airlifted to Mercy where the MAF and Pacific Partnership medical response teams worked together to assess and treat the casualties.

“The purpose of this exercise was to promote combined and joint cooperation among Malaysian maritime disaster first responders and the Pacific Partnership 2016 team,” said Capt. Tom Williams, mission commander, Pacific Partnership 2016. “It enhanced interoperability during the planning process and execution of the drill, which increased our collective search and rescue capabilities for future maritime disasters.”

During the casualty drill aboard Mercy, MAF and Pacific Partnership personnel simulated treating injuries such as, internal bleeding, a dropped lung, bone fractures, arm lacerations and a head injury.

“This is a good exercise because the scenario and training is very realistic,” said Muhamad Hendra Yudi Bin Bahrudin, an assistant medical officer in the Malaysian Army. “We were able to share knowledge and I can now apply different U.S. medical treatments that I learned. I hope this exercise will help our partnership grow.”

Cosgrove considered the SAREX was a success and appreciated the opportunity it gave her to expand her knowledge base in search and rescue planning and execution.

“This experience has shown me that we have more similarities than differences,” said Cosgrove. “It was such a great experience being able to work with Malaysian military personnel.”

Pacific Partnership is now sailing in Mercy to its final mission stop in Padang, Indonesia. Upon arrival, partner nations will work side-by-side with local military and non-government organizations to conduct cooperative health engagements, community relation events, subject matter expert exchanges and an earthquake drill to better prepare for a natural disaster or crisis.