USNS Mercy and USS Vandegrift deploy to the Pacific - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

USNS Mercy and USS Vandegrift deploy to the Pacific

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The hospital ship USNS Mercy and guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift departed Naval Station San Diego Tuesday on separate deployments to the Pacific, where the Pentagon is increasing its focus.

The USNS Mercy is scheduled to take part in "Pacific Partnership," in which it will make humanitarian stops in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam over the next four months. Crew members on the Mercy will provide medical, dental and veterinary care in the host nations, along with help with civil engineering projects.

Pacific Partnership also includes personnel from the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps; U.S. State and Justice departments, Agency for International Development and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Japan will contribute a landing ship, helicopters, a medical team and representatives from the country's volunteer organizations. Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand also will deploy personnel in support of the mission.

Other organizations scheduled to take part include the UC San Diego Pre-Dental Society, a student-run free dental clinic; Project Hope, which launched the first civilian hospital ship, LDS Charities; and the University of Hawaii.

The USS Vandegrift will head to the western Pacific and Indian Ocean for training exercises over the next six months with forces from Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, according to the Navy.

The deployment comes at a time when the Obama administration is paying more attention to Asia and, in conjunction with Asian allies, expanding its footprint to counterbalance what American defense officials long have described as a rising, more assertive China.

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