BENGKULU, Indonesia -- Service members assigned to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) made the first official Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18) mission stop in Indonesia where they participated in a two-part opening ceremony, April 2.
The morning began with a celebration in the courtyard at the Indonesian governor's office. The ceremony kicked off with a uniform inspection of United States and Indonesian service members signifying that all members were mission ready.
Following the inspection, several local Indonesians performed cultural dances, and later taught United States service members the steps to a traditional dance.
"PP18 is yet another example of the excellent cooperation between our two countries," said U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, Joseph R. Donovan. "The strategic partnership here in Bengkulu is not only focused on military exchanges, but also includes cultural and educational exchanges as well as seen today, with this ceremony."
At the conclusion of the Indonesian portion of ceremony, there was a brief press conference where leaders from both countries spoke about the different types of medical, engineering, and community events that will be held during Mercy's time in Indonesia.
Later in the day, local Indonesian leaders, both military and civilian, came onboard Mercy and attended a reception on the flight deck. During the reception Major General Ben Yura RimbaTentara Nasional Indonesian (TNI) surgeon general, addressed the crowd with his thoughts about the Indonesian and United States partnership.
"I do believe that this program will make our partnership stronger because we will be learning from each other," said Rimba. "It is in this way that I believe our program works best. If we continue to learn from one another, this Pacific Partnership program will continue on and make us all stronger."
The day long opening ceremony concluded with the ceremonial cake cutting aboard the Mercy.
Mercy, along with Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6), are 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. military personnel stationed worldwide, working side-by-side with host nation counterparts to be better prepared for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.