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NHB Staff Prep for Upcoming USNS Mercy Mission

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080301-13
Release Date: 3/1/2008 10:32:00 AM

By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- In what has become a cyclical event of compassion and commitment, Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) personnel will embark this summer on Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

Mercy will again deploy to provide medical support, humanitarian assistance, and civil affairs aid in support of Pacific Partnership 2008 to countries primarily on the Pacific Rim.

Such humanitarian assistance is now an integral part of the Navy's updated core mission statement released last year. The Mercy's last deployment covered five months in 2006 and provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Republic of the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and East Timor. In all, Mercy visited 10 locations in the four nations, and cared for more than 60,000 patients, as well as showcased the crew as American goodwill ambassadors.

"Building on a successful Mercy deployment in 2006 and USS Peleliu Pacific Partnership last summer, Mercy will again embark international medical, dental and engineering teams this summer to provide humanitarian support in Southeast Asia," announced Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet in Sydney, Australia, on Jan. 29, in a speech on U.S. Maritime Strategy.

"Providing assistance for a humanitarian mission is yet another example of our overall commitment to executing our readiness mission on a Navywide scale," said Capt. Catherine A. Wilson, commanding officer, NHB.

In preparation for the upcoming deployment, NHB personnel spend an orientation week in December familiarizing themselves with the Mercy.

"It was a week well spent," said Hospital Corpsman Moneke Burks, of NHB's Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Dental Department. "We went through a lot in that time, from egress routes to damage control stations to providing input for our workspaces."

According to Burks, any concern she had about adequate supplies on hand was quickly dispelled.

"All medical needs were very well-stocked," Bruks commented. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. It was very impressive. Obviously a lot of thought had gone into what was needed and was well organized. As dental leading petty officer, one of my responsibilities will be to make sure we have all the instruments we need, and every port could be different, but from what I saw, we'll be prepared for any assignment."

Mercy's last mission included more than just Navy Medicine assets. There were Department of Defense civilian mariners. There were medical professionals from the Air Force and Army. There was a Seabee construction battalion, Pacific Fleet band musicians and a detachment of helicopters. There was also support staff from a variety of ratings to assist with all duties and responsibilities. Such is the contingency makeup this year.

"We'll be on more than just a normal Western Pacific deployment," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Steven Stanton, NHB Combined Food Service Department. "We'll be providing assistance to a number of needy people. On Mercy's last cruise; there were some people who waited for days in long lines for the ship to pull in. To be in a position to help is such an emotional feeling."

Stanton will be a supervisor and watch captain in the ship's galley.

"The galley is currently being renovated, and is nice and big," said Stanton. "Besides our work on there, we will also help out with getting supplies to where they are needed at various sites ashore during the deployment. I'm looking forward to doing all I can for those in need."

Mercy is homeported in San Diego and will have a full crew of approximately 65 civilians and over 1,200 military and civilian personnel upon deployment. The ship's primary mission is to provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore, Army and Air Force units deployed ashore, and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat.

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