USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) steams through the Pacific earlier this week. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Hank Gettys)

PACIFIC OCEAN - Pacific Partnership 2016, embarked aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations Sept. 15, en route to Hawaii for a brief stop as the mission nears conclusion.

Mercy departed Naval Base San Diego May 11 and served as the command platform for the Pacific Partnership 2016 mission. Pacific Partnership is the largest annual, multilateral disaster response preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

"The objective was to improve interoperability between countries to strengthen the relationships and partnerships," said Cmdr. Miguel Gutierrez, director of medical operations, Pacific Partnership 2016.

Pacific Partnership 2016 conducted mission stops in six countries -- Timor Leste, the Philippines, Vietnam, Palau, Malaysia and Indonesia. Throughout the mission, Pacific Partnership personnel shared and gained expertise from each partner nation through subject matter expert exchanges in medical, engineering, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cooperative health engagements and Women, Peace and Security seminars. Key leader and community relations events provided for direct engagement and enhanced relationships with partner nation leadership and local citizens.

"The engagements from every line of effort built capability and interoperability, which helped strengthen and establish relationships with each partner nation," said Royal Australian navy Capt. Mike Spruce, deputy mission commander, Pacific Partnership 2016. "This mission is a lot about exchanging ideas, and the knowledge and skills shared throughout Pacific Partnership 2016 will last well after the mission is over."

Mercy and the Pacific Partnership 2016 team are scheduled to arrive at Naval Base San Diego at the end of the month.