On the eve of Mother’s Day, the USNS Mercy docked in Hawaii to take on supplies and personnel before launching on its Pacific Partnership 2010 mission. Thanks to the graces of Pacific Command, the Pacific Fleet, and Naval Region Hawaii, a group of local bloggers, tweeters, and social media mavens was allowed to tour the Mercy, speak to its leadership and crew, and document every aspect of this unique visit.
This is my experience.
About the USNS Mercy
Globally, the US Navy has two hospital ships in its fleet. While the Atlantic is under the care of the USNS Comfort, the USNS Mercy embraces the Pacific region. In stark contrast to its grey-hulled Navy brethren, the USNS Mercy is visually distinct, coated white and prominently displaying the Red Cross to signify its medical mission.
Also, the heritage of the Mercy is one of a converted oil supertanker, not built in the Naval shipyards. Within the Naval fleet, only an aircraft carrier is physically bigger than the Mercy.
The Floating Hospital
The obvious way to describe the USNS Mercy is it’s like a hospital, a floating hospital. Walking the expanses of the ship was just like walking the halls of any major hospital – an emergency receiving area, radiology with a CT scanner, sterile operating rooms, intensive care units, physical therapy, a blood bank, an eye clinic, a pharmacy, and patient wards (with a capacity of 1000 beds) were all there.
However, getting on a floating hospital does require a special ambulance though.
Once you understand that the Mercy is a moving hospital, guessing at the staggering logistics and special requirements follows. Traveling to Pacific countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste during Pacific Partnership 2010 (PP10), language issues are resolved by translators who are part of the crew or volunteers from Non-Governmental Agencies in host countries. Medical expertise comes from a variety of sources and is tailored for the mission at hand. Crew members are not assigned to the Mercy on a rotational basis, but from the 18 months of planning for PP10, medical skills are identified then assembled. Even veterinarians and biomedical equipment repair personnel will be participating. Supplies are continually taken on at every port stop and stored in any available free space.
The Teamwork of Roles
The successful operation of the Mercy lies in the teamwork of the crew as they each perform their vital roles. There are three primary roles on-board represented by the three leaders of the Mercy. From my understanding, Captain Lisa Franchetti heads the overall Pacific Partnership 2010 mission for the Mercy, Captain Jeffrey Paulson is chief medical officer, and Captain David Bradshaw is in charge of the operation of the Mercy.
The crew is composed of military personnel (about 1200) and civilians (about 66), and each member also has additional roles such as firefighters and to even defend the non-combatant ship if attacked.
While the USNS Mercy is prepared to handle medical emergencies, familiar comforts are available. The primary dining hall provides meals around the clock, and yes, they serve Starbucks coffee.
To keep the crew physically fit, spaces are converted to make shift but well equipped gyms.
So what are my personal takeaways after touring the USNS Mercy? It simply goes like this:
Amazed, overwhelmed, awed, honored, and lastly, thankful…
More Pictures of the USNS Mercy
More Coverage of the USNS Mercy Tour
- Pacific Partnership Home
- Pacific Partnership Blog
- Pacific Partnership on Facebook
- Pacific Partnership on Twitter
- USNS Mercy – Pacific Partnership 2010 by Bytemarks
- Visiting One of the Largest Trauma Facilities in the United States… and it Floats! OH MERCY! by Damon Tucker
- USNS Mercy Tour pictures by Ricky Li
- Tour of the USNS Mercy at Pearl Harbor by Marc Orbito