USNS Mercy makes debut at 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercise

The following blog post is the second in a series highlighting Military Sealift Command’s role in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific multi-national maritime exercise held in the Hawaiian area of operation. The six participating MSC ships are providing logistics support to the 49 surface ships participating in the exercise as well as tow, salvage and diving services.

PEARL HARBOR (July 10, 2014) – A Fassmer Life/Tender Boat from hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) heads toward the scene of a mock medical emergency during emergency disaster training at Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Justin W. Galvin/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (July 10, 2014) – A Fassmer Life/Tender Boat from hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) heads toward the scene of a mock medical emergency during emergency disaster training at Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Justin W. Galvin/Released)

U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) made its debut at the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), as it conducted a Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Recovery (HA/DR) exercise in Pearl Harbor Hawaii July 8-10.

The presence of Mercy at this year’s RIMPAC provides a unique opportunity to create a real-world HA/DR scenario, which includes a medical component designed to cross-train and share medical capabilities between military and civilian responders ashore and afloat. Using the small tender boats from Mercy, medical and support personnel transited between the ship and Ford Island moving patients and equipment, much as they would in a real natural disaster.

PEARL HARBOR (July 10, 2014) – Chief Hospital Corpsman Jashir Setias, assigned to Mercy, leads a team of corpsman from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 5 carrying a simulated casualty onto a Fassmer Life/Tender Boat during emergency disaster training at RIMPAC 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Justin W. Galvin/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (July 10, 2014) – Chief Hospital Corpsman Jashir Setias, assigned to Mercy, leads a team of corpsman from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 5 carrying a simulated casualty onto a Fassmer Life/Tender Boat during emergency disaster training at RIMPAC 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Justin W. Galvin/Released)

“From a medical perspective, we have not in the past been involved in operational exercises on this scale,” said Capt. Tim Hinman, C3F surgeon. “We have done a lot of tabletop training, but this is the first time we have been able to train in a realistic, multinational effort in coordination with civilian and military medical facilities in Hawaii.”

While the Medical Treatment Facility tested its skills, Mercy’s civil service mariner crew played a major role in the exercise, providing medical evacuation from the shore with the ship’s two, new, Fassmer Life/Tender Boat. The new tender boats replace the “Band-Aid” utility boats that became a fixture during the bi-annual Pacific Partnership deployments to South East Asia. The larger boats can accommodate more than 60 patients, medical personnel and passengers with better shelter from the elements, as well as air conditioning and heating. It makes for a much more comfortable ride.

While the ship is able to pull into port in Hawaii, Mercy is too large to pull pierside in many areas throughout the Pacific where it operates. Small boats, such as the tenders, can carry more than three times as many passengers as Navy helicopters used during missions, increasing the number of people who can be treated onboard the ship.

In addition to operating the tender boats during the HA/DR exercise, the 70 civil service mariners navigate while underway and provide the fresh water and electricity needed to run the shipboard hospital.

“RIMPAC 2014 provides USNS Mercy tremendous preparation for upcoming including planned missions like Pacific Partnership 15 or unexpected contingency operations,” said Capt. Tom Giudice, Mercy’s civil service master. “Exercising this capability in RIMPAC 2014 allows all aspects of ship and medical treatment facility to be put through its paces to enhance our readiness to be ready to deploy in five days for any contingency.”

PEARL HARBOR (July 10, 2014) – Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Charles Hogue,  assigned Mercy, stabilizes a simulated casualty during transport in a Fassmer Life/Tender Boat.  (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Justin W. Galvin/Released)

PEARL HARBOR (July 10, 2014) – Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Charles Hogue, assigned Mercy, stabilizes a simulated casualty during transport in a Fassmer Life/Tender Boat. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Justin W. Galvin/Released)

Mercy is joined in Hawaii by The People’s Liberation Army (Navy) hospital ship, Peace Ark. The two countries will hold medical subject matter expert exchanges while in Pearl Harbor as well as simulate disaster relief operations at sea later in the month. This is the first time in RIMPAC history that hospital ships have participated. Prior to the actual exercise play, both the American and Chinese medical staffs attended a medicine symposium, organized by Canadian military medical officials. During the symposium, the Navy’s Surgeon General and Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, spoke about RIMPAC’s ultimate objective and the international military medical community’s role in it.

RIMPAC 2014 is a multinational maritime exercise that takes place in and around the Hawaiian Islands. Hosted by U.S. Pacific Fleet, this year marks the 24th RIMPAC exercise that began in 1971. Twenty-three nations, 49 surface ships, 6 submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate including units from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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