- By Joyce McClure
Hospital ship Mercy greeted at Ulithi Atoll
PP18 Mission Commander Captain David Bretz presented a commemorative paddle to the delegates.
(L-R) Lt. Governor James Yangetmai; Francis Itimai, Director of Civic & Youth Affairs; Jonathan
Marmar, Director of Public Works & Transportation; Lynn D. Pangelinan, US Embassy
Kolonia Military/Political Affairs Assistant; Augustine Harong, Yap State Dept. of Health Services.
(Photo: Joshua T. Libyan)
Colonia, Yap-- Reaching Yap’s neighboring Ulithi Atoll is one thing for Pacific Mission Aviation’s nine-passenger, twin-engine plane that services the small island, but quite another for a ship the size of the USNS Mercy, one of the US Navy’s two Military Sealift Command hospital ships. Built in 1976, the vessel is 894 feet in length with a beam of 106 feet and can hold up to 1,275 civilian and military personnel. That’s about one and a half times the number of residents on Ulithi’s four inhabited islets.
On Mar. 20, the Mercy arrived in Ulithi for the 13th Pacific Partnership Mission that is visiting Yap as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam between February and June of this year.
A delegation that included Yap State Governor Tony Ganngiyan, Lt. Governor James Yangetmai, Speaker Ted Rutun, Council of Tamol Chairman Chief Ramon Peyal and FSM Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Samson Pretrick, flew on PMA to rendezvous with U.S. Amb. Robert Riley who arrived from Guam aboard the Mercy. The delegates welcomed PP18 Mission Commander and Commander of the Navy’s Destroyer Squadron 31 Captain David Bretz and the crew of medical, engineering and disaster response personnel.
Anchored beyond the reef, the ship’s helicopter flew members of the welcoming party to the ship where they disembarked for a tour. During its brief stay, medical personal will be at the dispensary on Falalop to perform general health checkups for Ulithi’s residents and to deliver medical supplies.
“It’s truly a pleasure for our PP18 team to conduct this exercise and strengthen the partnership between our two countries,” said Capt. David Bretz. “This mission also holds a deeper meaning because of the strong historical ties the United States has had with Ulithi in the past.”
On Mar. 19, 1945, Comfort-class hospital ship USS Mercy (AH 8) reported to the 5th Fleet at the Ulithi Atoll to assist the Okinawa campaign, during WWII. Throughout this campaign, USS Mercy made several stops in Okinawa where they began embarking and treating patients despite the frequent air raids and kamikaze attacks. The Ulithi Atoll became one of the centralized points for the allies to treat patients and gather supplies for four months. For her service during WWII, the Mercy received two battle stars.
Seventy-three years and one day after the USS Mercy made a stop in the Ulithi Atoll, USNS Mercy, anchored near Ulithi Atoll. This feat was significant to many.
“It’s very special to be doing this in a place like the Ulithi Atoll, which has incredible historical significance for the allies’ efforts in the Pacific Theater during World War II,” said Her Majesty’s Royal Navy Captain Peter Olive, deputy mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2018. “Joint efforts such as these are what Pacific Partnership is all about – multiple nations coming together to achieve a common goal and to share experiences.”
Too large to enter the harbor of Yap’s main island, the Mercy is supporting the USNS Brunswick, smaller at 337 feet in length and a beam of 93.6 feet and thus easier to navigate into Yap’s harbor, while it’s in Yap for the two-week-long mission. In addition to public health, veterinary and disaster response services, the mission’s crew members are also providing engineering expertise for repair and refurbishing projects at Yap State Hospital, the island’s elementary schools and an early childhood education center. Activities include reading hours at the Yap Public Library and elementary schools, games and band performances, capacity building training for state agencies such as health, public safety, education and the environment, as well as a community sports day at the Yap Sports Complex.
More than 800 military and civilian personnel from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Peru, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom are participating in the mission.
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