After a two-day delay USNS Mercy left on its scheduled humanitarian mission to Southeast Asia
“We got underway this morning,” mission spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. S. Maria Lohmeyer said, speaking by cell phone from the ship after Mercy left San Diego Bay.
Problems surfaced Tuesday with a valve in the ship’s forward propulsion system, Lohmeyer said, just as Mercy was preparing to leave on its four-and-a-half-month deployment for this year’s “Pacific Partnership” humanitarian and civic mission. Officials expected repairs would take 48 hours.
Lohmeyer said Navy officials don’t expect the delay will affect the planned missions, which will include medical, humanitarian and disaster relief projects in four countries, starting in Indonesia on May 31. Mercy, one of two floating hospitals operated by the Military Sealift Command, will also visit the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia before returning home in September.
The Mercy is deploying at the invitation of each nation, said Capt. James Morgan, the overall mission commander who commands San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron 7. “It’s about working together and building relationships.”
About 1,000 military service members and civilian medical providers, including volunteers from charitable and non-profit organizations, will participate in various medical, humanitarian and disaster relief projects during the deployment and join in mutual training and cultural exchanges. About 400 personnel along with the ship’s 70-member civilian-mariner crew gathered on Pier 2 at Naval Base San Diego early Tuesday for last hugs and goodbyes.
Deploying with Mercy is a detachment of two MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters and crews from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21. The detachment, based at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, Calif., will provide logistical support and cargo lift. A pair of 33-foot utility craft will provide ship-to-shore transport for medical and military personnel, patients and civilian volunteers.