Capt. Joseph L. Moore, a physician who is the mission's commander, said the goal "is to let people see America in a different light."USNS Mercy website here. Hearts and minds....
The ship will stop in politically volatile nations where some factions are openly hostile to U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere: the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, possibly Bangladesh and others.
"Terrorism is like an infection. You need to eliminate the medium where it grows," said Rear Adm. Brian G. Brannman, commanding officer of Naval Medical Center San Diego. "We need to show the truth about America."
The new mission is a follow-up to the tsunami relief mission, which was considered a medical and political success. The ship will visit some of the same locations as the disaster relief mission, such as Banda Aceh, an Indonesian city on the island of Sumatra that was devastated by the tsunami.
Some ports of call will be new, including the four provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines, according to the government there.
The region has long been a stronghold of violent groups that are dedicated to creating an independent Islamic state. Some of the groups have been linked to Al Qaeda and the kidnapping and murder of Westerners.
As a noncombatant ship under Geneva Convention rules, the Mercy lacks the weapons of a warship. But Navy officials said they have taken unspecified steps to protect the ship and its personnel.
At 894 feet long, the converted supertanker has 12 operating rooms, four X-ray rooms, a dental surgery suite, a physical therapy and burn care center, a pharmacy, and about 1,000 medical beds.
The ship can provide general and eye surgery, medical evaluation and treatment, public health training and even veterinary services. At each stop, host nations and nongovernmental relief agencies such as Project Hope will aid the U.S. effort.