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PUSKESMAS MANGARAN, Indonesia (June 4, 2012) - The sky was grey, but the faces were still beaming as the Indonesian locals gathered to watch a MH-60S Seahawk assigned to the Military Sealift Command ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) deliver medical and dental supplies on June 4.
Their happiness was symbolized by a local elder who greeted service members upon arrival with open arms and a blessing.
Master at Arms Seaman Ian Miller said he was taken aback by the welcome.
“Everyone was smiling and came out to greet us and shake our hands,” he said.
After the initial greeting Miller and the rest of the team started loading supplies into trucks with the help of local residents.
Lt. Johnathan Ward, an advanced medical planner on Mercy, said he was also pleased with the reception.
“What’s great about this mission is that this is the first interaction the locals will have with Americans and our partner nations,” he said.
“It’s great to be able to do good things with them in this sort of venue. If a disaster were to ever occur here, we could come back and they’d be waiting with arms open and there would be no hesitation.”
Local residents also showed their appreciation by taking photographs with the service members.
“The people around here are very happy the USNS Mercy came out,” said one local resident.
“Thank you for everything. We are truly grateful for your visit.”
The team moved approximately 14,000 pounds of medical, dental and life support gear to the medical civic assistance program (MEDCAP) site.
According to Ward, before they begin delivering the supplies, certain planning and considerations must take place.
“In the helicopter’s landing zone the pilots rely on us to make sure everything is clear,” he said.
“This includes making sure they have enough space and there aren’t any obstacles or obstructions in the way.”
Planning is also critical for the helicopter pilots, who must safely navigate around small boats in the channel and residential buildings.
“We want to fly over unpopulated areas in the off-chance that the cargo becomes unattached,” said LTJG Coy Harrell, naval aviator of squadron HSC-21 Blackjacks.
“We would not want it to accidentally fall and hit anyone.”
This delivery was one of many as part of Pacific Partnership 2012.
Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission U.S. military personnel, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies designed to build stronger relationships and develop 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.