PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP a perfect birthday gift

Published on ABIS Sarah Williams (author and photographer)

Location(s): Arawa, Papua New Guinea


Seaman Medic Renee Simmons in Casualty Receiving onboard United States Naval Ship Mercy as part of PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2015. (photo: ABIS Sarah Williams)
Seaman Medic Renee Simmons in Casualty Receiving onboard United States Naval Ship Mercy as part of PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2015.

The opportunity to give to others was the perfect birthday present for Seaman Medic Renee Simmons, who was selected to participate in PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2015. 

She turned 23-years-old on the day she flew to Hawaii to join United States Naval Ship (USNS) Mercy on a mission spanning four countries delivering medical and engineering assistance to communities in desperate need of help.

PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP is an annual United States led humanitarian and civic assistance mission aimed at strengthening international relationships with partner nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Seaman Simmons said that she first heard about PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP while she was under training at HMAS Penguin and loved the humanitarian aspects.

“Being a junior medic I thought it would be a great opportunity to use my new skills,” Seaman Simmons said.

Competition for places on the mission was keen, with many more volunteers than positions available. 

Seaman Simmons underwent a competitive selection, submitting an essay about herself and why she wanted to participate in the mission. 

Her enthusiasm and commitment stood her apart from many others and she was chosen as one of only two Australian medics selected from more than 200 applications.

 “I’ve always had a strong connection with assisting others,” Seaman Simmons said. 

“When I was little I watched a lot of emergency shows on television and remember seeing USNS Comfort in Africa. Ever since then I have wanted to help others less fortunate than myself.”

As a recently qualified Navy medic Seaman Simmons was able to live her dream working in the Adult Ward, Paediatrics and Intensive Care Unit on the ship. 

Ashore, Seaman Simmons had the opportunity to provide basic life support training in two Fijian hospitals and nutrition education to the people of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

“PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP has changed me as a person because now I can see how partner nations can work together and learn from each other. 

"It’s been great for my personal development and a really rewarding experience.”

Rabaul and the Philippines are two more destinations in USNS Mercy’s 2015 mission. 

Once Seaman Simmons has returned to Australia, she will join one of the Royal Australian Navy’s newest ships, Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Canberra, with the major capability of providing medical and engineering aid to natural disasters.