Ship brings in Pacific programme

Instant help: The ‘USNS Mercy’ is providing medical facility and disaster relief for humanitarian operations on sea and land.

KUANTAN: With the arrival of the hospital ship USNS Mercy here, the Pacific Partnership has come to Malaysia for the first time.

The partnership is an annual deployment of forces from the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy (USN), in cooperation with regional governments, military forces, humanitarian and non-government organisations.

Conceived following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, it aims at getting military forces, governments, and humanitarian organisations to work better together during disaster relief operations, while providing humanitarian, medical, dental, and engineering assistance.

Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) Naval Region 1 commander Rear Admiral Datuk Azhari Abdul Rashid said the mission here would see a two-week joint exercise, focusing on search and rescue, engineering and medical capabilities, community relations and the women, peace and security programmes.

“There will be a symposium, subject matter expert exchange, the Jiwa Murni project to be implemented at schools and Tasik Chini, tabletop exercises and field training involving vessels from the RMN and US Navy,” he said at the opening of the event at the Kuantan Naval Base here yesterday.

Azhari said the main objective of the event was to foster relations among regional nations and the United States in human assistance disaster relief.

“We will improve capabilities and response in dealing with the impact of natural disasters. Originally, the Pacific Partnership was initiated after the tsunami incident to provide direct aid but now it is more focused towards enhancing the capabilities of partner nations.

“This is also to increase the commitment of countries invol­ved in issues of security and stability in the Asia Pacific region,” he said, adding that 450 Armed Forces officers and personnel as well as 1,275 members of the US Navy were participating in the exercise.

“This runs at the same time with the Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange 2016 hosted by the Armed Forces’ medical services division,” he said.

US Navy Surgeon General Vice Admiral C. Forrest Faison III said it was a privilege and honour to be invited along with the partner nations of the Pacific Partnership to Malaysia.

“Over the next few days, we will learn from each other to prepare for the future. The Pacific region has more natural disasters than anywhere else in the world and the impact on human lives and the economy are immense and staggering. By working together today, we are preparing to save lives tomorrow,” he said.

Pacific Partnership 2016 mission commander Commodore Tom Williams said they would accommodate the request of each host country on which aspects to improve.

“Each country has different capacities. Over here, the medical exchange is much more robust. We also have much to learn in Malaysia,” he said.

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