PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) - The U.S. Navy is spending more than $20 million each year sending ships to poorer nations in the Asian-Pacific region to provide cataract surgery, dental fillings and other medical care.
Sailors are more often recognized for sending aircraft carriers to help troops in Afghanistan or fighting pirates off the Somali coast. But the U.S. Pacific Fleet and analysts say humanitarian missions are key to promoting U.S. national security, with relatively low costs even during a time of shrinking budgets.
Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, says the missions strengthen relationships with other countries.
The USNS Mercy and its 1,200-member crew recently stopped in Pearl Harbor on its way back to San Diego after a five-month tour of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
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