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Mercy's Oxygen Plant Breathes Life Into Ship's Mission

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080803-01
Release Date: 8/2/2008 10:08:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) A. Nick De La Cruz, Pacific Partnership 2008 Public Affairs

ABOARD USNS MERCY (NNS) -- As the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) prepares to arrive in Papua New Guinea Aug. 4 for the latest phase of Pacific Partnership, doctors, nurses and technicians, including volunteers from non-governmental organizations, prepare to evaluate and treat patients.

As they have throughout the weeks and months of the humanitarian mission, all of these health care professionals will depend on an often-overlooked, yet essential service: Mercy's oxygen plant.

Every night by 7 p.m., after the work centers, medical civic action programs (MEDCAP) and engineering civic action programs (ENCAP) personnel have secured for the day and the members of Mercy's night crew have begun their shift, the personnel in the oxygen plant continue to work.

The seven-man shop is responsible for providing liquid nitrogen to the ship's sick-call ward and oxygen to the intensive care units, operating rooms, casualty receiving areas and the patient care units aboard.

"We're also in charge of all of the damage control on board," explained Chief Machinist's Mate (SW) Julian Martinez, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. "We're also responsible for all of the maintenance in the galley, scullery and laundries on board too."

Despite the plant's schedule, Pacific Partnership has provided the opportunity for members of the Mercy oxygen plant to participate directly in various aspects of the humanitarian mission.

"I went to one ENCAP and just joined in the project," said Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Eric Marroquin. "At MEDCAPs I helped in the pharmacy, helped with patient administration and with crowd control."

Oxygen plant team members directly contributed to the Pacific Partnership mission by filling oxygen tanks for hospitals located within the mission region sites.

"Because we produce liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen for the ship, we're obviously capable of producing for host nations too," explained Martinez.

The service is essential to host nations because oxygen is a vital commodity in patient care.

So far, the oxygen plant has filled 130 tanks of liquid oxygen for hospitals in the Republic of the Philippines and in Timor-Leste.

Mercy departed San Diego May 1 in support of Pacific Partnership 2008, a humanitarian civic assistance mission in the Western Pacific. The ship serves as a platform to bring medical, construction and other humanitarian assistance programs both ashore and afloat, in order to help strengthen relations between the U.S. and Western Pacific partner nations.

The crew matrix includes doctors, technicians and engineers from the U.S military, and armed forces personnel from Canada, Australia, India, Portugal, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea.

For more news from Pacific Partnership 2008, visit

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