QUY NHON, Vietnam – The
Vietnamese Vice Minister of Health and the U.S. Ambassador to
Vietnam experienced partnership firsthand as they toured USNS Mercy
(T-AH 19) and a Seabee construction project in Quy Nhon June 4 in
support of Pacific Partnership 2010.
The Vice Minister of Health, Trịnh Quân Huấn, and the Ambassador,
Michael W. Michalak, were interested in seeing exactly what
capabilities Pacific Partnership brings to the people of Vietnam
during the 13-day mission stay.
Pacific Partnership was created in the wake of the tsunami which
struck Indonesia in 2004. Since 2006, partner nations and
non-governmental organizations have come together each year to
continue to foster the relationships developed during those
challenging months to provide medical, dental, veterinary, and
engineering civic action programs as well as subject matter expert
exchanges (SMEE) with local medical professionals.
Sponsored by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health, this is Pacific
Partnership’s third visit to Vietnam and the second for USNS Mercy.
As the Ambassador walked the passageways of the hospital ship, he
noticed not only the variety of U.S. military uniforms, but also the
large number of partner nation military professionals and
non-governmental organization volunteers going about their day,
maintaining Mercy’s ability to provide health care and surgery to
those in need. Also noteworthy, was the number of Vietnamese medical
specialists onboard Mercy – not for medical care, but rather onboard
to exchange information in the form of SMEE sessions on a range of
“I think that we’ve had excellent cooperation from the Government of
Vietnam and we’ve learned an awful lot in doing these missions,”
said Michalak. “And this one, from what I understand, has been
absolutely the smoothest and the best coordinated mission of all.”
Anchored just off of Mercy is JDS Kunisaki (LST 4003), the Japan
Maritime Self Defense Force ship which will work alongside Mercy and
local Vietnamese to also provide medical care. More than 30 medical
professionals from Kunisaki have joined the Pacific Partnership team
and are going ashore each day to treat those in need.
The Vice Minister and the Ambassador visited one of the Seabee
engineering sites in Quy Nhon upon completion of his tour of Mercy’s
hospital facilities. The construction project focused on the Quang
Trung Clinic District Health Center which provides health services
to more than 24,000 residents that live in the area, with an average
of 300 to 400 patients seen each month.
The clinic is the second of four engineering civic action programs
to be completed by engineers from Australia, the U.S., and Vietnam.
Vietnamese volunteers had a major role in executing the project. The
Ambassador explained that plans for the renovations were designed by
Vietnamese firms in the Quy Nhon area; all of the materials were
purchased in Quy Nhon – an initiative implemented by Defense Supply
Center Philadelphia Pacific Region; and a large part of the labor
was provided by Vietnamese volunteers.
The locals and militaries weren’t the only ones contributing to the
clinic. Project Handclasp, the U.S. Navy’s worldwide outreach
program, and Latter-day Saint Charities donated boxes of medical
supplies to be used by the doctors and nurses. Nour International,
another non-governmental organization, facilitated the international
shipping and delivery of the supplies. Project Hope donated over
$19,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment that has been
specifically requested by the clinic and a nearby hospital. Without
the partnership between all the parties, the project couldn’t have
been completed so seamlessly.
After cutting the ribbon to rededicate the health clinic, Vice
Minister and the Ambassador toured the newly refurbished treatment
center. Among the improvements were patching the roof; installing
new metal-framed doors and windows; repairing and painting the
interior and exterior; installing ceiling fans; and replacing
electrical fixtures throughout.
Pacific Partnership’s work in Vietnam is a visible example of the
progress between the U.S. and Vietnam in the 15 years since the
normalization of relations between the two countries.
"It [Pacific Partnership] increases the trust and confidence between
the two nations and enhances the military-to-military relationship
to a new higher level," said the Ambassador.
Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S.
Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at
strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government
organizations, host nations, partner nations, and international
humanitarian and relief organizations.