PACIFIC OCEAN -- Service members assigned to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) made a brief mission stop, March 20, near Ulithi Atoll, part of the Caroline Islands in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
This is the first official engagement of Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18), where Mercy will be sailing near Ulithi Atoll and using helicopters to deliver medical supplies to a advanced echelon team of PP18 medical professionals embarked on USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6), the secondary mission platform. PP18 medical professionals plan to work alongside Ulithi Atoll public health professionals, assisting in treating local citizens at a clinic.
"It's truly a pleasure for our PP18 team to conduct this exercise and strengthen the partnership between our two countries," said PP18 Mission Commander Capt. David Bretz. "This mission also holds a deeper meaning because of the strong historical ties the United States has had with Ulithi in the past."
On March 19, 1945, Comfort-class hospital ship USS Mercy (AH 8) reported to the Imperial Japanese Navy 5th Fleet at the Ulithi Atoll to assist the Okinawa campaign during WWII. Throughout this campaign, USS Mercy made several stops in Okinawa where they began embarking and treating patients despite the frequent air raids and kamikaze attacks. The Ulithi Atoll became one of the centralized points for the allies to treat patients and gather supplies for four months. For her service during World War II, the Mercy received two battle stars.
Seventy-three years and one day after USS Mercy made a stop in the Ulithi Atoll, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) anchored near Ulithi Atoll. This feat was significant to many.
"It's very special to be doing this in a place like the Ulithi Atoll, which has incredible historical significance for the Allies' efforts in the Pacific Theater during World War II," said Her Majesty's Royal Navy Capt. Peter Olive, deputy mission commander, Pacific Partnership 2018. "Joint efforts such as these are what Pacific Partnership is all about; multiple nations coming together to achieve a common goal and to share experiences."
During this mission, several government officials from the Federated States of Micronesia were flown onto Mercy from the Ulithi Atoll, where they were given a tour of the ship and were able to meet Sailors stationed aboard the ship.
"We are really excited to help out in any way that we can," said Lt. Brian Ford, family physician and the event lead for the medical portion of this exercise. "Ultihi has done a lot historically for the United States, and I think it will be an amazing opportunity to give back to a community that has assisted the United States in the past by working alongside their local health professionals in a clinic and bring medical supplies to this clinic to be used for current and future patients."
Mercy, along with Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6), is participating in Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18), the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. PP18's objective is to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made and natural disasters.
Pacific Partnership 2018 consists of more than 800 U.S., partner and host nation personnel working side-by-side to better prepare for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.