SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The hospital ship USNS Mercy left San Diego Wednesday, May 11 for the 11th annual Pacific Partnership humanitarian voyage.

The Mercy and its crew of medical and dental professionals, veterinarians, engineers and members of aid organizations will visit Timor Leste, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Palau and Indonesia during the 4 1/2-month mission. Personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom will also participate.
The Coronado-based Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 is accompanying the Mercy. The deployment is being led by Capt. Tom Williams, commander of the San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron 23.
Pacific Partnership started after the destructive Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Participants conduct humanitarian assistance activities and help the visited nations improve maritime security and strengthen disaster response preparedness.

"This being the 11th year of Pacific Partnership we have the benefit of looking back at all previous missions, especially last year’s Pacific Partnership 2015, and build upon our formula, using that information to tailor what we plan to provide in each host nation based on their specific needs and capabilities," said Capt. Melanie Merrick, commanding officer of Medical Treatment Facility USNS Mercy.

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the region, and was born out of the military-led response to the tsunami that struck parts of Southeast Asia in December 2004.