Sunday, September 28, 2008

...and home!

Dear Family and Friends,

We arrived back in San Diego last Thursday to a wonderful homecoming. Our mission is complete (Whew!). I guess it is time to close out this Blog with one final entry. Over the last week or so, I have been struggling with just how to put down in writing what all this has meant to me. I know for myself, and most everyone who served aboard Mercy, this mission will serve as the benchmark for my career.

What we have done:

It is very hard to quantify how you measure the success of a mission like this – because it’s not simply about numbers. First and foremost, this mission was about diplomacy. It was about building relationships with the people who we share this immense span of ocean we call the Pacific. As a mariner, I have spent most of the last 32 years sailing these waters. I have come to know these people as if they were regular neighbors. And I know it’s the relationships between neighbors that will build the foundation for a good neighborhood.

It used to be said America was protected from the world’s ills and troubles by the vastness of two oceans. This is no longer the case. With today’s modern transportation and communication systems, the oceans no longer separate from the rest of the world – if anything they join us together! The places that used to be "way over there" are getting closer to us every day. The neighborhood is shrinking - and like all good neighbors we must trust and depend on each other.

So it’s not about the numbers… On the other hand, everyone seems to like numbers so here are just a few of our final numbers for Pacific Partnership 2008:

Total patients seen: 90,693 (Whoa!)
Surgeries performed: 1,370
Bio-Med repair: $2,965,719 worth of equipment put back into service.
Preventive Medicine: 2,090 hours – Effected population (Est.): 48,500
Veterinary Services: 6,665 Animals Treated.
Training & Subject Matter Expert Exchange: 4,352 Students - 7,703 Contact Hours

I owe so very much to a lot of people who helped make this Blog the success it was. I can’t possibly begin to thank them all - but here are just a few: I first need to thank Captain Scott Gureck who is the public affairs officer for Commander, Pacific Fleet. Scott was a classmate of mine at the Naval War College and it was he who originally dreamed up the idea of my writing a Blog for this voyage. It took a great deal of effort to talk me into to it as well. Scott also used the authority of his office to give me a great deal of top-cover to write whatever it was I felt like writing. I was never pressured by anyone to make changes or to "edit" content. My words in this Blog are mine and mine alone. Another public affairs officer I need to thank is my good friend Rosemary Heiss from the MSC office in Washington DC. Rosie provided me the technical assistance and the "how to" expertise necessary in getting this Blog posted.

It goes without saying that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wonderful shipmates here aboard Mercy. It is still amazing to think that such a hodge-podge of professionals – from CIVMARs to Military; from NGOs to our partner nation friends; from college students to all the rest – and each and every one of them having the same vision of what this mission could and should be.

And last but not least, I wish to thank all of you, dear readers, for taking the time to click on to this journal over the last few months. I was so lucky to have been able to be a part of all this. It has been such a privilege to be able to take a ship built for war, and to use it for such a tremendous instrument of peace. My most heartfelt thanks for allowing me to share with you this magnificent adventure.

Warmest regards…


Monday, September 8, 2008

Visited by Angels

Dear Family & Friends,

Since starting this Blog, I have thoroughly enjoyed the many comments posted by various readers. As you probably noticed, I have deliberately avoided commenting on these comments over the course of this voyage. This was for several reasons – mostly; however, it was because I wanted people to be able to post their comments freely and without constraints. I didn’t want to overtly and intentionally encourage the posting of comments. In other words, I did not want readers to believe they were somehow obligated to comment. Nor did I want readers to think their comments would end up being “critiqued” by me.

I’m going to stray from this precept of mine to share with you a comment from my last post. This came from "Nenginin" in Chuuk who posted:

"We the people of Chuuk would have to agree with you when you said your visit to Chuuk was "amazing," but in a different perspective of course. Even after your departure today, we are still amazed when we think back to what you and everyone on the PP08 team did for the people of Chuuk. All of you must have heard so many 'thank yous’ and 'kinisou chapur', but I do not think we can ever thank you ENOUGH. We are truly blessed to have been visited by angels on their big white angel boat :) The sight of the beautiful Mercy in the Chuuk Lagoon will forever live in our hearts."

Wow! "...visited by angels on their big white angel boat." Not bad!!! And just a little humbling…to say the least.

We made it out of Guam – finally. I know you family members at home have been wondering about the folks who are flying out from this stop. It was just a little crazy; however, we finally managed to get everyone embarked aboard an airplane. Your loved ones should be home about the time this gets posted. We are down to just over 500 people aboard. It’s funny how we can have that many folks and the ship seems almost empty.

We have Hawaii in our sights. We’ll be there in about a week.

More to come…


Monday, September 1, 2008

It still hasn’t set in…

Dear Family & Friends,

It still hasn’t set in… We’re done! It’s time to go home now. Our very last mission site is a wrap. We weighed anchor this afternoon from Chuuk and we are on our way back to Guam for a short logistics stop. We will then be headed east for the long voyage back to San Diego (with a brief stop in Hawaii along the way).

It still hasn’t set in… Our stay here in Chuuk was amazing! The folks here were so very friendly and exceptionally appreciative of our efforts. In addition to Chuuk, Mercy sent “fly-away” teams to work on other islands in FSM – both on Pohnpei and Yap. Here are a few of the numbers for our visit in the Federated States of Micronesia:

Total Patients Seen: 17,709
Surgeries Performed: 204
Prescriptions Filled: 27,892
Glasses Given: 9,168
Veterinary: 793

Our bio-medical repair engineers were able to repair an estimated $507, 200 worth of medical equipment. Also, our Seabees and partner engineering personnel refurbished several schools.

It still hasn’t set in… Although our time is getting short, the usual shipboard routine continues on. This morning we maintained our promotion tradition aboard Mercy. One of our General Surgery residents, LT Matt Tadlock, was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. Matt was honored to have the Commander of the 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral John Bird, administer the oath. Naturally, the promotion was done on Mercy’s bridge with Matt raising his right hand while placing his left hand on the ship’s wheel.

It still hasn’t set in…although it’s probably a good thing for me. While the medical folks are winding down their operations, I still have my work cut out for me. There still is a trans-Pacific voyage that needs to be made! Perhaps this will set in for me when we’re securely moored in San Diego.

More to come…