I awoke this morning, May 14, to the soft strains of the call to prayer emanating from the stately mosque near my hotel -- an encouraging start to my first day back in Indonesia to prepare for the arrival of Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12). Only two days ago I was on the deck of the incomparable hospital ship USNS Mercy sailing into Pearl Harbor. The scene at Pearl Harbor reminded me of movie versions depicting dockside activities prior to a voyage: there were mobile cranes everywhere, several eighteen-wheelers disgorging supplies, sailors, volunteers, and family members loaded down with duffels, suitcases, boxes, and crates to be tucked into the ship's relatively confined berthing areas.
Pearl Harbor was the initial PP12 interim port; in addition to taking on supplies and personnel, commanding officers met with Pacific Fleet counterparts, held a briefing at the East-West Center, and oversaw minor technical adjustments to systems following the week-long transit from San Diego to Hawaii. Currently, Mercy is steaming towards Guam, where she will take on the final contingent of personnel, stores, and equipment before heading for the North Sulawesi region of Indonesia for the two-week opening mission of PP12.
Mercy's arrival in the Celebes Sea near Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia will be the culmination of more than a year of planning by hundreds of people around the world. PP12 is the third mission to Indonesia since the tragic 2004 tsunami that led to the creation of Pacific Partnership, all three visits carried out via the USNS Mercy. The American Embassy in Jakarta has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for this mission, both by sending personnel to remote locations in the North Sulawesi area and by hosting many of us who arrived on various planning and senior leadership visits. The U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, in whose consular district Manado lies, has also contributed to the foundation and success of the mission.
When Mercy arrives to Indonesia, she will carry a thousand personnel representing 11 partner countries; PP12 will carry or work with more than 20 international NGOs during the mission. Many of the contributing doctors, nurses, engineers, veterinarians, and volunteers will come from the host nations themselves, as the host nations are both the instigators and requestors of the specific missions and locations. This reality of working together in response to potential crises in times of calm will help ensure a rapid and efficient response when the next international natural disaster occurs.