USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) sits anchored off the coast of Bengkulu, Indonesia, March 30. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Cameron Pinske)

BENGKULU, Indonesia - Service members and partner nations participating in Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18) departed Bengkulu aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 10.

"I'd like to thank the residents of Bengkulu for their hospitality. I have found that they are some of the most engaging and friendly people I have ever met," said Capt. David Bretz, PP18 mission commander.

"It was very exciting to finally be at our first mission stop and I want to express my gratitude for all of the hard work and dedication shown by our service members and partner nations."

While in Bengkulu, service members and partner nations aboard Mercy, Indonesian military members, and civilians participated in a series of community relations events interacting with the local community at eight different events, with the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band conducting 12 concerts at locations such as local elementary and junior high schools, universities, and receptions. The engineering line of effort constructed a new school building and a community hall, while the medical and dental lines of effort participated in a total of 25 cooperative health engagements and 24 different subject matter expert exchange discussions.

They also provided two veterinary information exchanges with local veterinarians and animal control.

Additionally, service members and local government officials exchanged experiences, ideas, and advice during a Women's Peace and Security international engagement conference. The three-day conference was held in Bengkulu and aboard Mercy. The conference sparked productive discussions about ways to enhance disaster preparedness and response. It also highlighted the importance of women and children being active participants when it comes to conflict prevention, building peace, and post-conflict resolution.

During PP18, Mercy and Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6), U.S. ships participating in PP18, are conducting visits to different Indo-Pacific nations, increasing the reach and scope of PP18 participants and host nation counterparts to conduct technical expertise exchanges in medical, engineering, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Additionally, key leader and community engagement events will allow for direct engagement with local citizens and enhanced relationships with partner nation military and government leadership.

Pacific Partnership, now in its 13th iteration, is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. PP18's objective is to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made and natural disasters.

Pacific Partnership 2018 consists of more than 800 U.S. military personnel stationed worldwide, working side-by-side with host nation counterparts to be better prepared for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.