PEARL HARBOR - Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12), embarked aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), arrived in Pearl Harbor Sept. 2 as it nears completion of a nearly five-month deployment, the largest annual humanitarian and civic assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific.
Following the visit to Hawaii, Mercy will transit to her homeport of San Diego, returning in mid-September.
While in Hawaii, Mercy will detach personnel and unload equipment that played a critical role in providing medical, dental, engineering and veterinary services to the four host nations of Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia during PP12.
Sarah Sanderlin, a member of the University of Hawaii Nursing and Engineering Schools Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) team aboard Mercy, said the Hawaii contingent will be disembarking to return back to family, friends and normal civilian life after providing vital medical and engineering support, especially in the area of subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE).
"This trip has been a chance of a lifetime for me," said Sanderlin. "I have a different perspective of life around the world and a better understanding of the world now. Now that I am returing home, I want to be able to remember the places we have been as something more than just a great trip. I want to teach my kids how the rest of the world lives and what their perspective is of the U.S.
"Although returning back to a normal routine will be challenging, I am excited to return back to some of the normal things back home."
At the invitation of the host nations, PP12 brought the expertise of U.S. service members and personnel from 13 partner nation militaries and 23 Non-Governmental Organizations to treat and evaluate more than 49,000 people.
SMEEs were a large focus of this year's mission including joint surgeries, medical and veterinary care, culinary exchanges and cultural learning. Additionally, 887 surgeries were performed, more than 7,000 animals were treated, 13 buildings were built or refurbished and 104 community service projects were completed with 244 pallets of requested supplies were donated to host nations.
PP12 Mission Commander Capt. Jim Morgan said during the closing ceremony in Cambodia that the really important parts of this mission are the professional and cultural exchanges between PP12 participants and the host and partner nations.
"It's through increased understanding and trust that we will all work better and more efficiently together - not if, but when - a natural disaster strikes," said Morgan.
Pacific Partnership, an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet sponsored humanitarian and civic assistance mission now in its seventh year, brings together U.S. military personnel, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build stronger relationships and build disaster response capabilities throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.