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PEARL HARBOR - Canadian armed forces medical personnel embarked Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during its scheduled port visit in Pearl Harbor May 15, to participate in Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12).
The group of 30 Canadian service members will be divided into two teams with each covering half of the deployment to work with the host nations to provide medical care in the mission ports of Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.
"We are here aboard Mercy to support PP12," said Cpl. Benjamin Fournier, from British Columbia, Canada. "We have a team of medical technicians, nurses and a doctor that will provide aid at the medical civil action programs."
The medical civil action programs (MEDCAPs) are designed to offer a variety of medical treatments by leveraging the expertise of host nation, partner nation and NGO medical personnel.
"We will help in every way we can, from checking vitals and assessments, to working hands-on with the treatment of the patients," said Fournier.
Fournier said PP12 provides the team an opportunity to work with a multitude of experts from a range of organizations and countries.
"It's very important to us to train with other militaries," said Fournier. "If a natural disaster should occur again, we want to be prepared; it will take all of our combined efforts."
For some of the Canadian team this is the first time they have ever traveled outside their home country.
"I have never (had) the chance to travel before, and can't wait to see these places we are going," said Fournier. "I'm very fortunate to be one of only 30 service members in the whole country to be chosen to take part in PP12."
The service members were chosen from some of the best medical personnel in all of the Canadian armed forces.
"I was at home on leave when I heard the news," said Fournier. "I got a call from my command telling me that I was going to be part of PP12; I almost jumped through the roof."
In addition to the mission, working aboard a hospital ship is something he has never before experienced.
"Being aboard a ship is new to me," said Fournier. "There have been a whole lot of 'firsts' for me; from learning the proper terms, to finding my way around, it has been a very interesting experience."
"This ship is much bigger than the ships I have been on," said Master Seaman John Fillis, from British Columbia, Canada. "When I was on the HMCS Algonquian we had only 300 people and could walk from one end of the ship to the other in two minutes."
Fillis said all of the Canadian personnel have received an amazing reception from the crew since coming on board.
"Not only are people taking time out of their day to help us, but they truly seem to want to get to know us and where we come from," he said. "It is one of the most humbling experiences I can imagine, and I can't wait to get out there and start seeing patients and being an ambassador for my home country."
Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission designed to work by, with and through host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build partnerships and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters.
For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.