Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) transits to the Pacific Ocean from Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI). (U.S. Navy/MC3 Luke Cunningham)

SAN DIEGO - Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and its embarked Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) departed San Diego for a Dynamic Interface (DI) exercise Apr. 13.

The main purpose of DI is to evaluate the ship's aviation facilities for compatibility with variants of the V-22 Osprey and MH-60 Seahawk.

Mercy returned to San Diego from Los Angeles in 2020 after supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) mission, under the Department of Defense's Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), to provide coronavirus (COVID-19) relief. The ship transited to Portland, Ore., where it underwent a regular overhaul and received upgrades to its flight deck to accept more varieties of aircraft.

"The Mercy crew has been looking forward to this day for over seven months, and the excitement is palpable," said Capt. Timothy Quast, Mercy's MTF commanding officer. "Having commissioned both a ship and two hospitals during my career, this feeling is very familiar. That's the current atmosphere here. I'm so proud of the work Mercy Sailors have put into the preparation for getting [the ship] ready for sea and to execute a safe DI. We look forward to having the Osprey becoming a part of the Navy Medicine team, as it truly enhances our capabilities."

To further help support DI, over 100 additional Sailors embarked to bolster the MTF and ship's company crew from various, regional commands like Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) San Diego, Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), America-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA 7), Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 3 and Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron 49.

"We accomplished a tremendous amount of work during the repair period, and it's great to see the ship coming alive again and integrating all of the new systems," said Capt. Peter Nolan, Mercy's ship's master. "We have a lot of new crew members, and we're looking forward to the upcoming periods at sea so we can continue working together, becoming a cohesive unit and prepared for any upcoming missions or tasking. After so much repair time ashore, we are excited to be underway again."

To support the Navy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham's "four Ps" of people, platforms, performance and power, Mercy can steam to assist any combatant commander's mission and provide humanitarian and disaster relief as a symbol of Navy Medicine's ability to project power around the world.

Mercy must be in a five-day-activation status in order to project combat power over the horizon, and be ready, reliable and resilient to support mission commanders.

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Retail Specialist 1st Class Julio Espejoperez raises the National Ensign aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). (U.S. Navy/MC3 Luke Cunningham)

Hospitalman Britney Russel looks ashore as USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departs Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI). (U.S. Navy/MC3 Luke Cunningham)

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Menard Chavez looks ashore as USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departs Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI). (U.S. Navy/MC3 Luke Cunningham)