Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12)/USNS Mercy arrived in Vinh, Vietnam, on July 10. On that same day, Secretary Clinton arrived in Hanoi, just two hundred miles north of Vinh, to meet with Vietnamese leaders. During the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the return of the Fulbright Program to Vietnam, she commented that the 15,000 Vietnamese students currently studying in the United States benefit as much from the relationships and perspectives they acquire as the education and skills from their studies. Her remarks are equally applicable to Pacific Partnership; the relationships and interactions from this experience clearly affect everyone involved, from all nations.
The week of July 10 was an excellent reminder that Pacific Partnership is part of an overarching American commitment to the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary Clinton spoke again on July 13 at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, followed by a speech the following day in Siem Reap (where the stunning Angkor Wat temples are located.) The motto for the Siem Reap venue was Commitment to Connectivity (C2C), which is a veritable subtext of PP12. Following departure from Vinh later this month, we will steam for Cambodia, host to last week's ASEAN summit.
The American connection to our current mission site, Vietnam, and previous site, Philippines, is emphasized by the number of PP12 personnel, military and civilian, who are American citizens, but were born in the Philippines or Vietnam, or whose parents were born in one of those countries. Our American Consul General from Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. An T. Le, who was born and raised in Vietnam, attended our welcoming ceremony on July 11. It has been enlightening for both host country nationals and PP12 personnel to witness and reflect on this reality. The similarities among us are naturally highlighted, and in this era of improving communications via email and various social networks, friendships, and family ties are being forged and in some cases, rekindled.
At the time of this writing, we are half way through the Vietnam portion of PP12, and off to another flying start. Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEEs) are a dynamic focus of this year's efforts, and exchanges on veterinary medicine and nursing have been completed. Local Vietnamese physicians are rotating out to Mercy to partner with our surgeons and physicians while treating patients in our surgical wards. At the same time, daily teams travel ashore by small boat and conduct medical and dental clinics ashore, as well as engineering projects, including the construction of a new clinic. This is Pacific Partnership's fourth visit to Vietnam since 2007, and we have clearly developed a constructive and productive working relationship for now and the future.