BY MIKE TUA
THE scheduled 12-days humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness operation of the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy under the Pacific Partnership 2022 mission to the Solomon Islands is just the beginning of more commitments to the country, says Pacific Partnership 2022 mission commander, Capt. Hank Kim.
“This is our fifth visit to the Solomon Islands and although we would like to stay as long as possible, I do like to emphasize that we have recurrent commitments to the Solomon Islands and we do try to come back as often as we can,” Capt. Hank Kim told local journalists who attended this week’s press conference held at the U.S Consulate office in Honiara.
When asked about what plans to be established after the USNS Mercy visit and the mission of the Pacific Partnership in the country, Capt. Hank Kim said they have now carried out discussions about the future of the mission in the Solomon Islands but it all deepens to the need and request of the host country.
“Our plans are discussed and solidified every year, so we have a call out at what we call Pacific Command and we have country decks officers to liaise with our U.S Embassy and we will ask each partner nation or host nation throughout the region if there are interested in having USNS Mercy or Pacific Partnership Mission come to visit and provide either assistance in medical, humanitarian, disaster relief, engineering, and host nation outreach events.
“So we have these discussions now and based on what the host nation, in this case, Solomon Islands says if they invite Pacific Partnership back then will try to consider that in our operational scheduled for the following years.
“The Mercy hospital ship is every other year – although the Pacific Partnership is every year – on the even years you will see the USNS Naval hospital ship go out in the region and then on the odd years you will see another U.S vessel that will house and lodge medical professional, engineers, what we call Host Nation Outreach Events (HNOE) and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief personnel,” Capt. Hank Kim said.
He thanked the government and the people of the Solomon Islands for welcoming the Pacific Partnership 2022 mission to the country.
“My crew and I, couldn’t be more excited, more pleased, and more proud to be here in the beautiful country of the Solomon Islands for the 5th time under the Pacific Partnership initiative that we have conducted in our 17 years.
“We left our homes in Santiago about four months ago and we travel over 23,000 kilometers to be here in this beautiful country of Solomon Islands.
“We bring with us over 700 doctors, veterinarians, engineers, nurses, core-men but most importantly we bring over 700 friends to this beautiful country and we are looking forward so much to engaging the official, the medical professionals, and just the local folks in a very, very exciting and robust Pacific Partnership 2022,” Capt. Hank Kim said.