QUY NHON, Vietnam - Pacific Partnership 2010 departed Vietnam today after 13 days of working alongside the people of Binh Dinh Province to deliver a variety of humanitarian and civic assistance programs ashore and onboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

“It is with mixed emotions that today I bring to a close Pacific Partnership 2010’s visit to Vietnam,” said Pacific Partnership 2010 Mission Commander, Capt. Lisa M. Franchetti during the visit’s closing ceremony on the Fleet Landing pier which served as the gateway for participants, patients, medical equipment and supplies, and visitors traveling to and from Mercy.

“Watching Pacific Partnership develop from a simple vision discussed at our initial planning meeting here in December, to the reality of seeing our collective teams in action the last 13 days has been an amazing and incredibly rewarding experience for me and for everyone involved,” said Franchetti.

As a result of the Vietnamese Ministry of Health’s sponsorship of Pacific Partnership 2010, the residents of Binh Dinh Province, located on the central coast of Vietnam, benefited greatly from the combined efforts of more than 1,000 medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering professionals from numerous partner nations, non-governmental organizations, and U.S. military services.

Coinciding with the 15th year anniversary since the normalization of relations between the two countries, this was Pacific Partnership’s third visit to Vietnam.

Medical civic action program (MEDCAP) sites treated more than 19,000 patients during the visit. Many MEDCAP sites, such as the Phuoc Hua Junior High School, were temporarily transformed into a clinic for the purpose of the program, receiving hundreds of patients each day in search of general medicine, optometry, dental, and pediatric care.

“The MEDCAP at Phuoc Hoa succeeded beyond my expectations both in terms of numbers of patients seen and positive experiences for our providers and their patients,” said Cdr. (Dr.) Peter Shumaker, Phuoc Hoa MEDCAP officer-in-charge. “This success was a result of the tremendous cooperation from our hosts and the vigorous efforts of our entire team.”

During the mission MEDCAPs were held at two to three sites each day resulting in a total of 30 clinics during the 13 day span. MEDCAP engagements between providers and patients were not one-way interactions. In fact, providers also benefited from the opportunity to treat patients.

“Our patients were not the only beneficiaries of the medical care provided at Phuoc Hoa,” said Shumaker. “We learned a great deal from the experience, and gained a sense of pride at making a big difference in the lives of some, and making a positive impression on many more. We also gained a great deal of respect for the hard-working people of the region.”

In addition to MEDCAPs, medical professionals from Mercy engaged with their Vietnamese counterparts for Subject Matter Expert Exchanges, including sessions on retinal disease, interventional cardiology, and leprosy. Biomedical Equipment Technicians from Mercy worked to return 35 pieces of medical equipment to service, with a repair value in excess of $4.3 million.

From the engineering perspective, Pacific Partnership engineers arrived in Quy Nhon City twenty days prior to MERCY’s arrival and completed four separate renovation projects during her stay: one clinic and one school for disabled children in Quy Nhon City and two clinics in the Tuy Phuoc District.

By the time Pacific Partnership departed Vietnam, almost 22,000 man-hours were allocated to renovating all four renovation projects. The largest project was the Hope Center, a school for special needs children located in Quy Nhon City.

As the centerpiece of the ENCAP portion of the visit, the Hope Center saw Seabees from Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 11 and Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, Australian Defense Force Army engineers from the Second Combat Engineer Regiment, and Vietnamese volunteers. This enthusiastic team worked diligently in 100 degree heat to replace the roof and ceilings, install ceiling fans, lights fixtures and outlets, install a solar water heater, and create a beautiful – and functional – new kitchen. Engineers also painted and refitted railings on the second floor as a safety system for the students, many of whom live on site.

“The opportunity for the Australian combat engineers to work with both the US construction battalion and the Vietnamese was both challenging and rewarding,” said Commander, Australian National Command Element, Lt. Col. Helen Murphy. “The Australians effectively overcame language and cultural differences to harmoniously work together to achieve the combined goals. It was wonderful to watch the transformation of the building project that will now benefit the local community for many years to come.”

Community service (COMSERV) program volunteers completed 17 different engagements, including painting the Hope Center, paying visits to children at local hospitals, painting a geriatric ward at the Binh Dinh Leprosy Hospital, and playing volley ball and soccer games with a local team – losing both, but having fun doing so.

While Pacific Partnership was busy ashore, it was just as busy aboard MERCY, where 343 patients were seen and surgeons performed 132 surgical procedures. From elective cataracts to acute trauma, Mercy surgeons, nurses, and technicians performed with full integration from partner nation and NGO colleagues. This success had its foundation in the hard work done in advance by the local Vietnamese surgeons who presented Mercy’s doctors with well-screened patients who were excellent candidates for surgery.

“From previous Pacific Partnership mission experience and through a great deal of coordination with the advanced team on the ground, the demand was congruent with our menu of surgical services offered,” said Mercy’s Director for Surgical Services, Cdr. (Dr.) Trent Douglas. “MERCY was able to provide outstanding surgical care to our Vietnamese patients and we look forward to strengthening our relationship in the future.”

USNS Mercy was joined in Pacific Partnership by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) JDS Kunisaki (LST 4003) and her 30-person medical team and three NGOs who assisted at the Nhon Binh and Hai Cang MEDCAPs in Binh Dinh Province.

The Pacific Partnership team this visit included military and government personnel from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom, and United States and civilian volunteers from East Meets West, Latter-day Saint Charities, Project Hope, UCSD Pre-Dental Society, Vets Without Borders, and World Vets.

Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government organizations, host nations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.