JS Shimokita (LST 4002) steams alongside USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) while en route to Da Nang, Vietnam, for the just-completed third mission stop of Pacific Partnership 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Brittney Vella)

DA NANG, Vietnam - Pacific Partnership 2016 departed from Da Nang, Vietnam on July 28 after completing two weeks of disaster response training, medical and engineering subject matter expert exchanges, cooperative health engagements and community relations events.

This year marks the seventh time the mission has visited Vietnam in the past 11 years and the first time that three ships, including USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's JS Shimokita (LST 4002), and Vietnam People’s Navy ship Khanh Hoa (K-123) participated in the Da Nang mission. For the first time, Khanh Hoa hosted Vietnamese and U.S. Navy doctors in dental and surgical cooperative health engagements alongside other Pacific Partnership medical personnel.

“With nearly dozens of complex medical engagements completed, Pacific Partnership 2016 was a resounding success due to the incredible planning and the delivery of world class medical care by our Vietnamese colleagues,” said Capt. Peter Roberts, commanding officer of the Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) aboard Mercy. “Working collaboratively, side-by-side, the Vietnamese and Mercy teams made significant strides in our mutual understanding and management of complex burn, spine, and orthopedic patients. The skilled providers of Vietnam, aboard Khanh Hoa, delivered medical, surgical and dental care in a shipboard environment while our doctors learned how their skills could be quickly integrated if required.”

Also new this year, was a disaster relief workshop, cohosted by Vietnam National Committee for Search and Rescue, and Pacific Partnership 2016. The workshop discussions included disaster management organization, early warning signs and incident command system, and search and rescue efforts in disaster relief. The workshop concluded with a search and rescue field exercise on Han River and aboard Mercy, the command ship for Pacific Partnership 2016.

Four separate engineering projects were completed by Vietnamese and Japanese service members, U.S. Navy Seabees and Marine combat engineers at the Hoa Phu Primary School, Chin Gian Medical Station, Rang Dong Kindergarten School and Tuong Lai School. Pacific Partnership personnel from aboard Mercy and Shimokita painted the Tuong Lai School as part of a community relations project.

Around the city of Da Nang, a nine-member component of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band performed at various schools and gave two public performances at Bach Dang Street and Bien Dong Beach Park, and at a joint reception aboard Shimokita.

“It’s an opportunity for us to reach out to the people of Vietnam in a way that transcends language and culture,” said Chief Musician Ian Charleton, the chief in charge of the Pacific Fleet Band Detachment aboard Mercy. “The audience we had at the Bach Dang Street performance was very involved and engaged, and very interested in meeting us. This is the most rewarding part of our job; interacting with the people of Da Nang.”

“We strongly believe our engagements between Pacific Partnership 2016 participants have improved capacity and enhanced regional partnerships and increased multilateral cooperation with the people of Vietnam,” said Capt. Takeshi Okada, commander, Landing Ship Division One, Joint Maritime Self-Defense Force, embarked aboard Shimokita. “After sailing out of Da Nang, Japan will lead a mission in the Republic of Palau, where we will also engage in medical exchanges, engineering projects, and cultural exchanges with our partners in Palau.”

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, participating in events in Da Nang, commented that “I have witnessed results that occurred during the past two weeks...from the smooth coordination of the search and rescue exercise to the repairs and renovations completed at sites across Da Nang. I believe that whether renovating a school, delivering needed health services, or discussing disaster response, we – together – build the trust and foundational relationships for effective coordination that benefits real Vietnamese people.”

Pacific Partnership 2016 is focused on enhancing relationships and multinational-interoperability through knowledge exchange and cooperative training, ensuring partner nations are prepared to collectively and effectively respond when disaster strikes.