USNS Mercy pulls into port on Guam
It's a humanitarian mission inspired by the tragic Southeast Asia tsunami in 2004. Today the Pacific Partnership landed in Guam after completing its tenth mission in the Pacific Region.
Hundreds of soldiers saw United States soil for the first time in months as the USNS Mercy made port at Naval Base Guam. Children ran up to hug their parents - soldiers that had been deployed on the US Pacific Partnership mission since May.
Mission commander Captain Christopher Engdahl told KUAM News, "They've been gone from their families for about four and a half months, and as you can see, very happy to be back. It's always great no matter what service you're in, the homecomings are always the best parts of the day."
The group of roughly 1,000 thousand personnel and assets from Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and Timor Leste had a busy four months. "We've been to a total of seven countries - Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vietnam, and now thankfully back in US territory, and back in Guam," added Endahl.
PP2015 focuses on helping countries prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. There were roughly 70 Guam personnel on board. "So I will tell you the Guam service personnel that supported us, very strong group, I don't need to tell you how prepared Guam is for a natural disaster. You guys live it every day. One of the unique things about this mission is that in each of the countries that we went to there's a different level of preparedness, from the most basic level of one doctor serving 14,000 people to Vietnam and Philippines who are also very well prepared," announced medical facility commanding officer Captain Melanie Merrick.
And deputy commander Captain Brian Delamont added, "But we deliberately chose the most challenging areas to go to where there was no infrastructure, so we could get all the coordination and transport communications and learn how to do that which makes us more effective if we have to go in after a real typhoon."
All said the greatest reward is knowing they've made a difference in people's lives. Engdahl said, "Imagine a child in Papau New Guinea who once you have a deformity, your family kind of pushes you off for someone else to take care of you."
A simple operation could change that child's future. "We put the child's ward right next to the band, we had face painters on board, it was just fantastic, so I always found that the children were some of the most interesting surgeries," he added.
The USNS Mercy will be in Guam until September 6, when it will move on to its next destinations in Hawaii and San Diego.