The Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship glided through San Diego Bay in mid- September, a month ahead of its Oct. 11 commissioning in San Francisco, ending a unique transit to
its new homeport.
After leaving the Ingalls Shipbuilding shipyard in
Pascagoula, Miss., on July 11, America (LHA 6) headed
southeast for the long trek around South America and
the Strait of Magellan. It was an epic maiden transit.
The ship’s 1,100 crew members were joined by several
hundred Marines and four MV-22B Osprey aircraft
with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force
South to conduct Theater Security Cooperation missions in four nations, unusual taskings for a precom-missioning ship headed to its first homeport.
“We’ve basically demonstrated ourselves as fully
operational, fully capable, coming out of the gate,” said
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Duhe, America’s combat
Top officials said the transit provided a significant glimpse into
how America, with its aviation-centric design, will be relevant as it
readies to join the Navy’s operational fleet over the coming year.
“The America, it’s only limited by
the imagination of others. I look at
that, and the rest of the amphibious
Navy, as a Swiss army knife. We
bring a lot to the numbered fleet and
to the combat commanders in how
they want to use us,” said RDML
Frank L. Ponds, Expeditionary
Strike Group Three commander,
who rode the ship for the entire tran-
sit. “Today, it’s more than just em-
ploying assets. It’s how we employ
them, how we utilize them.”
BGen Joaquin F. Malavet, deputy
commander of I Marine Expedi-
tionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said the ship’s
strong aviation capabilities should be viewed in the
broader context of how naval expeditionary forces will
be employed in the future strategic environment.
“We actually can tailor to the requirements here,
and train to it,” said Malavet, who commands 1st Ma-
rine Expeditionary Brigade, a scalable crisis-response
force. “We are leveraging what the MEUs [Marine
Expeditionary Units] go out with.”
The ship’s arrival on the West Coast is certain to fuel
discussions of how best to utilize its unique features.
Top commanders believe the ship’s versatility well
positions embarked forces to respond to a wide range
of military operations.
“The Marines now are starting to figure it out,” said
CAPT Michael “Wayne” Baze, executive officer and
prospective commanding officer. “We get a lot of
questions, like how do Marines want to operate out of
The fleet’s newest amphibious assault ship
puts the onus on aircraft as a force multiplier
By GIDGET FUENTES, Special Correspondent
First of its Class
Prior to its commissioning, the amphibious assault ship America
was joined by Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force
South and four MV-22B Osprey aircraft to conduct Theater
Security Cooperation missions in South America.
; America will be joined by Tripoli in the two-ship America class,
which will be distinguished by enlarged and enhanced aviation
facilities and capabilities, but no well decks for landing craft and
; The ship’s full complement of 31 aircraft will include 12 MV-22s,
nine F-35Bs, four UH-1Y Venom helicopters, four AH-1Z Viper helicopters and two H-60 Seahawk helicopters.
; Crew members, ship commanders and fleet officials are eager
to “see what we can do” as America gears up for its first deployment in 2016.