Pacific Ocean - The crew of Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) are hosting two midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, July 14 to Aug. 10.
The midshipmen are aboard the Mercy to further their professional development as future leaders of the fleet by introducing them to underway hospital operations, expose them to how the Navy prepares itself, manages mass casualty situations on a hospital ship and give them a sense of day-to-day life at sea.
"It's the first time midshipmen have been aboard Mercy," said Lt. j.g. Erin Dowling, a ward nurse aboard Mercy. "It is very beneficial for these two midshipmen to be on a floating medical treatment facility (MTF) that does strictly medicine and nursing."
Midshipman 1st Class Vikram Mukherjee and Midshipman 1st Class Chelsea Sehifferle, upcoming seniors at the Naval Academy, plan on pursuing careers in the medical corps. To date, they said they've enjoyed their time on the ship and have been impressed with the mission-first mindset and personable demeanor of the ship's staff.
"Everyone has been very hospitable, easy to approach and very knowledgeable," said Mukherjee, from North Carolina. "They seem to be experts in their field and I can really sense the passion with which they go about their duties."
The two midshipmen have been shadowing junior officers, who have been providing mentorship and sharing their experience with the midshipmen during their time aboard the ship. The junior officers are also helping the midshipmen learn about underway operations underway while answering questions about the different jobs people have on the ship.
"I've learned how all the different medical professionals work together - the doctors, nurses and corpsmen, and I get a sense of the 'we-must-operate-as-one-team' type of ethos on the MTF," said Sehifferle, from California.
Thus far, the midshipmen have participated in several activities, including serving as runners during a mass casualty drill, playing injured patients during a medical evacuation exercise, standing on the ship's bridge as it got underway and are scheduled to take a tour of the People's Republic of China, People's Liberation Army (Navy) hospital ship Ark Peace (T-AH 866).
"They are learning how a floating MTF is run," said Dowling. "How we triage patient care for the MTF and disseminate the patients to various parts of our hospital, like the intensive care unit, ward, and casualty receiving."
Sehifferle said the crew has been very supportive of them and are eager to share with them the lessons they have learned as Sailors.
"Everyone from the Medical Staff to the Military Sealift Command have been more than willing to help integrate the midshipmen into their daily schedule making this a great learning opportunity for all parties involved," said Lt. Cmdr. Iradj Stroble, a medical officer working with the midshipmen.
As the midshipmen are aboard Mercy during RIMPAC, they have immersed themselves in the ship's various training evolutions and are interacting with the international military medical community, including officials from the Canadian Armed Forces and the People's Republic of China, People's Liberation Army (Navy) [PLA(N)].
"With all the training and the drills were conducting, as well as the opportunity to interact with the other countries' military medical personnel, our ship's personnel are teaching the midshipmen time-tested wisdom to ready them for their next journey," said Mercy's Command Senior Chief Dedrick Walker.
Stroble added that the time the midshipmen spend aboard Mercy will help them make a well-informed decision concerning the next step in their naval careers and will prepare the ship's crew for hosting the next wave of midshipmen on a summer cruise.
This year's RIMPAC marks the first time in the exercises history that hospital ships have participated. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the California coast and Hawaiian Islands. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.