Royal Navy joins US-led Pacific peace and goodwill mission
Patrol ship HMS Tamar will spend several weeks on the US-led operation, a three-month mission to spread goodwill to islands and nations across the Pacific.
Run for the past couple of decades, the mission offers medical and engineering support, disaster relief and outreach activity to communities and countries across the Indo-Pacific region.
The Royal Navy has supported Pacific Partnership on several occasions in the past and this year two Royal Navy sailors are assigned to deployment flagship, USNS Mercy as part of an international team delivering assistance, including a six strong contingent of Australian personnel and Japanese representatives.
But the decision to commit two patrol ships – HMS Tamar and Spey – on five-year missions to the region allows a Royal Navy vessel to participate for the first time.
Tamar will undertake search and rescue training, support disaster relief capacity building, and host a series of outreach events with a number of Indo-Pacific communities. Whilst Tamar is working offshore a team of Commando Engineers from 24 Commando Royal Engineers based in Plymouth will undertake school renovation projects working alongside their US Navy Construction Engineer colleagues, the ‘Seabees’.
Tamar is due to join Pacific Partnership mid-way through the deployment. The Mercy left her home in San Diego and begins her welfare work in the Western Pacific and Oceania later this month: delivering a health fair, school build projects running medical surgeries and some disaster relief training.
Aboard are Royal Navy personnel Captain Charles Maynard and Lieutenant Lesley Hailey – part of a 700-strong team of planners, medics, construction engineers and musicians who form the staff of Pacific Partnership 22.
“Serving with Captain Maynard and Lieutenant Hailey, in addition to the entire Pacific Partnership crew, has been a distinct honour and highlight of my career,” said Pacific Partnership 2022 mission commander Captain Hank Kim.
“I’m also thrilled to welcome HMS Tamar and her crew to the team later on in this mission so we may learn from each other and enhance this already incredible partnership.”
It’s the 17th time the deployment has taken place – and the first on this scale for three years as Covid restrictions limited visits in 2020 and 2021.
For Lieutenant Hailey, this is her second tropical experience; she sailed with the deployment in 2016 as part of a five-strong team of RN dentists/dental nurses.
Now commissioned as an officer and normally based at Plymouth’s Derriford hospital, she’s returned to Pacific Partnership as a medical services officer helping with the medical planning element of the deployment.
“For each mission stop, we will be planning a scheme of medical events with the host nation such as side-by-side engagements, environmental health and the provision of surgery onboard,” she explained.
Captain Maynard draws on nearly 30 years’ experience in the Royal Navy, command of five ships and several years on exchange with the US Navy to act as Pacific Partnership’s deputy commander under American Captain Hank Kim.
“Expectations for Pacific Partnership this year are high and we can’t wait to get started,” said Captain Maynard, who’s based aboard the Mercy.
“This year’s deployment for the UK is quite a significant contribution, and I am delighted and honoured to be the deputy commander. The exchanges from this mission create lasting bonds of friendship and trust that will endure far beyond the time the ships leave the jetty.”
Mercy, which departed San Diego at the beginning of May, is a former oil tanker turned into the largest floating hospital in the world and the eight largest hospital in the United States.
With more than 700 surgeons and medical staff embarked, she can cope with up to 1,000 patients – including 80 in intensive care – with serious casualties and cases receiving treatment in ten operating theatres.