In this file photo, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) sits off the coast of Manado, Indonesia, during a previous Pacific Partnership mission. (Photo by Camelia Montoy)

PADANG, Indonesia - Pacific Partnership 2016, embarked aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), arrived in Padang Aug. 19 for the fifth and final mission stop of 2016.

This year marks the fifth time the mission has visited Indonesia and will include partner nations’ military forces from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and the United States as well as experts from several non-governmental organizations including Project HOPE and HOPE Worldwide.

Pacific Partnership is visiting Indonesia to strengthen ties between partner nations in order to improve multinational cooperation for humanitarian assistance disaster relief (HADR).

“We hope to build stronger partnerships, continue our long working relationship with our Indonesian counterparts and more importantly, we relish the unique opportunity to learn from these partnerships as we move forward,” said Lt. Rebecca Wolf, country officer in charge of Indonesia for Pacific Partnership 2016.

Indonesian civilians and military, and Pacific Partnership personnel will work side-by-side during disaster response training, civil engineering projects, Women, Peace, and Security seminars, subject matter expert exchanges in medical procedures and a live field training exercise that will improve the capacity of the local government and partner militaries to respond to an earthquake in the West Sumatra province.

“The medical projects are centered around subject matter expert exchange events and workshops focusing on dentistry, nursing, and medical considerations relating to natural disasters,” said Wolf. “Educational outreach teams will also conduct eye screenings, dental and public health hygiene lectures alongside Indonesian counterparts.”

Participating nations of the Pacific Partnership mission have worked with the people of Indonesia during times of calm and also crisis that include the 2004 and 2005 tsunami relief operations in Banda Aceh and responding in the aftermath of the Padang earthquake in 2009.

“Pacific Partnership’s motto of ‘preparing in calm to respond in crisis’ highlights the importance of taking advantage of opportunities to mature the response capabilities and interoperability between all the nations involved with Pacific Partnership,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Rice, Pacific Partnership 2016 deputy chief of staff, and lead HADR planner. “Natural disasters usually don’t provide much of a warning. When they strike, we all have to be ready to respond in a coordinated, efficient fashion because lives can depend on it.”

The humanitarian assistance disaster relief field training exercise in Indonesia will be the largest exercise of Pacific Partnership 2016. There will be more than 200 total participants involved in four locations in and around Padang. The scenario will involve Pacific Partnership personnel and participating Indonesian agencies, including local government leaders and the Indonesian military. The participating entities will need to plan and coordinate a collective response to two large earthquakes and the resulting aftermath.

“It’s a very medically focused scenario,” said Rice. “So disaster medical response will be a large part of the efforts.”

In addition to medical and HADR knowledge exchange events, U.S. Navy Seabees will work with Indonesian military engineers on three projects, including the construction of a community shelter and evacuation road that help build resiliency in the local community in case of natural disaster.

“Each of these countries we have gone to and each of these projects we have been a part of, it leaves me a little bit more humble,” said Builder 3rd Class Garrett Barham, Amphibious Construction Battalion One. “It’s a great feeling knowing that what I am doing actually leaves an impact.”

Before arriving in Indonesia, Pacific Partnership 2016 completed five mission stops in Timor Leste, Philippines, Vietnam, Palau and Malaysia.

“I think the biggest impact is exactly what the country of Indonesia is looking for as well as what Pacific Partnership is looking for,” said Kang. “A kind of big picture, unified understanding and knowledge of the all hazards response. I think the Indonesians have embraced the Pacific Partnership mission, in that they want to make sure that all of the countries involved have an extensive knowledge of responding to a humanitarian assistance disaster relief effort.”