SAMAR, PHILIPPINES –
Crew members aboard Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) transport more than 200 host country patients to and from shore daily in support of Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12).
Currently providing aid in the
Philippines, the Mercy’s crew members operate two 33-foot utility
boats, 12 to 16 hours per day, ferrying passengers from ship to
shore and back on small boats, called Band Aid boats.
MSC Able Body Seaman Jeffrey Ginogino, a small boat deckhand, said
Band Aid boats and helicopters are the two main sources of
transportation to get from ship to shore and back.
“If we were not here to transport people on a daily basis it would
make accomplishing our mission very difficult because our
helicopters have a limited amount of capacity to transport people
and supplies,” he said.
At a length of 272 meters and 10 meter draft, Mercy’s large size
forces the ship to remain offshore. Therefore, Band-Aid boats
provide a vital transport function that links the mission to the aid
Ginogino said the MSC crew enjoys their role of providing support to
“I love helping people in any way I can,” he said. “Having the
opportunity to see patients board and then disembark USNS Mercy
after being medically treated is very rewarding.”
Lita Padilla, a mother escorting her daughter to USNS Mercy for
treatment, said she had a very welcoming experience from the
crewmembers aboard her Band Aid boat when transiting to the hospital
“The crew members operating the vessel were very kind because they
went out of their way to carry my daughter to ensure she made it
aboard safely,” she said. “Then they provided her with food and
water when she was hungry.”
Ginogino said some crew members participating in PP12 are Filipino
by birth, and are enjoying the opportunity to return and give aid to
“I’m originally from the Philippines, so it’s great to see the
smiles on my people and how much they appreciate what we’re doing to
assist them during PP12,” he said.
Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S.
Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission designed to
work by, with and through host and partner nations, non-government
organizations and international agencies to build partnership and a
collective ability to respond to natural disasters.