By Saw Dun
California Maritime Academy cadet
On the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), I am part of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) civilian mariners (CIVMAR). You might be surprised to know that MSC is part of the Department of the Navy. The CIVMARs are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Mercy, everything from watch standing, navigation, deck work and engine room operations. As cadet CIVMARs, we are required to do 100 days at sea as part of our training.
In April, our academy cruise coordinator sent out an email about cadet spots available on the Mercy. He also mentioned the ports of call for the ship, which was set to be the primary platform for Pacific Partnership 2015 (PP15). The next morning, I was the first person at his office requesting to be on the Mercy. I was very excited about the places the Mercy was going to, like Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vietnam. Unfortunately, I will not be going to Vietnam as my 100 days are up in the Philippines.
While I picked the Mercy based mainly on the ports, my experiences onboard the ship have been great. This is the first time in my life that I have worked side-by-side with Navy personnel. It has been a great opportunity to be a part of Pacific Partnership. I have worked on land in various civilian jobs for 15 years and this has by far has been the most rewarding experience in my life.
When we are in port, my main job is to assist the officers in setting up the side port ramp on the starboard side of the ship at 5 am in the morning. At 6 am we prepare the tender boats and launch them at 6:30 am. These boats are used the transport patients and PP15 personnel to and from the ship.
I am also part of the tender boat crew, and as a boat crew member, my duties are to tend the mooring lines and assist in loading and unloading of patents. Being on boat crew has been pretty tough – aside from jumping in and out of the tender boat for tying up the lines, we also have to endure the humid heat and the ocean waves all day long. When there is a combination of hot weather and rough seas, it challenges our physical limits. Sometimes we do not know if we are soaking wet from the rain or our own sweat. But for me, when I see the patients we are helping, I don’t mind my fatigue as much, because I am reminded that the people in this region really want and need our help. Being part of the PP15 team and going to all the different countries has made me realize that there is the whole world out there. Not just a city, county or state. It is so amazing to meet different people from different cultures and it is very rewarding to see the positive things we were able do for the people in countries where there are very limited medical services available.
After my 100 days, I will be returning to the academy; I still have two more years at the academy. After I graduate, I intend to join MSC.
When Mr. Cooper, our academy cruise coordinator said to me that sailing on the Mercy would be a great opportunity, he was right. I will always treasure my experiences on the Mercy and as part of the Pacific Partnership team, as they have been a unique life experience.
#PP15 #PeopleMatter #PresenceMatters #PartnershipsMatter