By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Clay M. Whaley, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
USNS MERCY, At Sea (NNS) -- Service members and civilians aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) celebrated Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, May 20, while underway for Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12).
Crew members participated in an educational brief, singing, dancing and a fashion show for a first-hand view of the different traditions, culture and history of Asian and Pacific Islanders.
"We held an Asian Pacific Islander Heritage celebration to commemorate and recognize the different cultures and traditions of people, and to share their history of hard work and service to our country," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Marvin Ramos, leading chief petty officer for the directorate of Nursing Services. "Since we have such a diverse group of people in the military, I think it's important to understand everyone's heritage and background."
Ramos said Mercy crew members will be spending a majority of the mission in the Asian-Pacific region, so it is important to become accustomed to their culture and heritage.
"The celebration is important to PP12 because our objective is to build relationships with the host nations of Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines," said Ramos. "Knowing the culture and traditions of each of these countries helps us better understand their backgrounds, and can aid us in building successful relationships."
Many PP12 crew members aboard Mercy are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.
"It has been seven years since I've seen my family and friends in Guam," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Oliver Sicat. "I'm happy that PP12 is giving me opportunity to reunite with them again after all these years."
Sicat, who was born in the Philippines and raised in Guam, will have the opportunity to visit his extended family for the first time since childhood.
"I'm really excited to see my grandma," said Sicat. "I moved away from the Philippines when I was just a young child, so this will really be one of the only times I will ever have seen most of my family in my life."
Pacific Partnership is a five-month humanitarian assistance initiative designed to build partnerships and a collective ability to respond to natural disasters that and will make port visits to Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.