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October 11, 2014 / iDriveWarships

Bringing USS America to Life

Capt. Hall speaks during media day onboard USS America

By Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., Commanding Officer of USS America (LHA 6)

The commissioning journey for the newest amphibious assault ship in the fleet, USS America (LHA 6), has been challenging, rewarding and everything the first commanding officer of a new warship could ask for. I am so proud to bring this ship to life today in San Francisco alongside my crew, loved ones and the American public. When USS America’s keel was laid in July 2009, the anticipation started to build. Then the christening happened in Oct. 2012, crew marched aboard in April 2014 and the ship’s maiden transit just two-months ago in July. Today is the day—Commissioning Day—that I have been looking forward to since I received my orders to command USS America.

I want to emphasize that the journey has not been easy. All the training, personnel processing, late nights at the office, watchstanding requirements, and just learning to operate a new ship, has kept my crew of over 1,100 plankowners very busy.

To attest to the crew’s impressive efforts, USS America’s crew and embarked units successfully completed the ship’s maiden transit, “America Visits the Americas” only a couple weeks ago prior to coming up from her homeport in San Diego to San Francisco for commissioning. The embarked flag staff from Expeditionary Strike Group 3, roughly 300 Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) South, and pilots from both the “Argonauts” of Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22 and the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, were essential in the ship’s momentous South American transit.

As a pre-commissioning ship and crew, we visited and hosted distinguished visitors from Cartagena, Colombia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Valparaiso, Chile; and Callao, Peru. We also hosted distinguished visitors at sea from Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and El Salvador. When the ship transited the southernmost point of South America, through the Strait of Magellan, we had the honor to have the Secretary of the Navy embark USS America and hold an all-hands call in the ship’s hangar bay. This transit was a once in a lifetime experience and one that very few, if any, pre-commissioning ships have an opportunity to accomplish.

As our ship’s motto states, “Bello Vel Pace Paratus,” meaning, “Prepared in War or in Peace,” this ship is ready and prepared to respond for the country. Whether it is a humanitarian mission, embassy evacuation or a need for air assault, USS America is waiting to answer the call.

USS America officially begins her legacy in the fleet today and I want to thank all the incredible men and women serving our country, on this great warship. To everyone who has had a role in breathing life into USS America, thank you for your support, and for the vision you created for this aviation-centric platform. This ship has already made history, now the Navy and Marine Corps team must continue to learn more about all the capabilities, and endless possibilities, this new class of ship will provide amphibious warfare well into the future.

October 10, 2014 / iDriveWarships

SURFPAC Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at SURFPAC

Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month today with a ceremony expounding on the national theme, “Hispanics: A Legacy of History, A Present of Action and a Future of Success.”

SURFPAC staff enjoyed a Flamenco dance performance by DanzArts, and remarks from keynote speaker, Lt. Cmdr. Manuel Sanchez, Maintenance Material Control Officer for HSC-21 Blackjacks.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 by honoring the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Sept. 15 marks the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

October 2, 2014 / iDriveWarships

Avenger, Defender Decommissioned

USS Defender (MCM 2) decommissioning ceremony

The mine countermeasures ships USS Avenger (MCM 1) and USS Defender (MCM 2) were decommissioned this week during separate ceremonies at Naval Base San Diego. Avenger had more than 27 years of naval service; Defender had 25 years in service.

Several of the ships’ plankowners and former crew members attended the ceremonies alongside current crew members. The commanding officers of both ships honored the plankowners that took part in their respective commissioning ceremonies by having them stand and be recognized during the decommissioning ceremonies.

Over the years, Avenger played integral roles during Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, and several deployments to the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Avenger was also the first ship to ever locate and destroy a fiberglass-cased influence mine in combat.

Defender has deployed to the U.S. 3rd, 6th and 7th Fleet areas of operation, has earned four Battle ‘E’ awards and two Secretary of the Navy Letters of Commendation.

Avenger was commissioned on September 12, 1987, and Defender was commissioned on Sept. 30, 1989. Both are now part of the inactive reserve fleet.

USS Avenger (MCM 1) decommissioning

September 23, 2014 / iDriveWarships

Arleigh Burke, Philippine Sea launch Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to combat ISIL

U.S. military forces and partner nations undertook military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria overnight, using a mix of fighter, bomber, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles (TLAMs) to conduct 14 strikes against ISIL targets.

To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed 47 TLAMs launched from USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf, as well as U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter, remotely piloted and bomber aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. In addition, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also participated in or supported the airstrikes against ISIL targets. All aircraft safely exited the strike areas.

The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal and included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles.

The United States conducted these strikes as part of the President’s comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. Going forward, the U.S. military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group.

September 16, 2014 / iDriveWarships

SURFPAC Pins New Chief Petty Officers

SURFPAC CPO pinning 2014

“This is the most significant transition that you will experience during your careers,” said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Kathryn Coleman to four chief selectees during a pinning ceremony today at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.

For the last 121 years, in the Navy and only the Navy, the rank of E-7 carries unique roles and responsibilities unlike other branches of service where it’s simply an advancement in pay grade.

Rich in traditions and rituals, which guide much of Navy life, the chief petty officer pinning ceremony is preserved to make sure Sailors stay consistent with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.

Guest speaker, Force Master Chief Brannon Knox, told the new chiefs’ families that their Sailor would never be the same, and that from now on, more will be expected of them.

“This rank carries with it a unique responsibility and privilege,” said Knox. “Tomorrow the real work of being a chief begins.”

Following six weeks of intensive CPO 365 Phase II training, the new chiefs carried out the time-honored tradition of singing “Anchors Aweigh” before donning their anchors and combination covers.

“It’s amazing how these anchors make you stand taller,” said Knox. “Wear them with pride.”

Today, thousands of Sailors across the fleet have a new first name—“Chief!” Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) congratulates all of the Navy’s new chief petty officers.

Bravo Zulu to SURFPAC’s and supporting commands’ newest chiefs:

GSMC Jeremiah Barboza
GSEC Alexander Peralta
PSC Brian Stackpole
YNC Katherine Voyce

September 15, 2014 / iDriveWarships

USS America Makes Homeport Arrival in San Diego

USS America (LHA 6) arrives in new homeport of San Diego

The Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, the future USS America (LHA 6), arrived in her new homeport of San Diego today to make preparations for its commissioning ceremony on Oct. 11.

While on her maiden transit, “America Visits the Americas,” the ship circumnavigated South America testing the ship’s capabilities and strengthening relations with partner nation navies. The ship completed port visits in Callao, Peru; Cartagena, Colombia; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Valparaiso, Chile; and transited the Strait of Magellan at the southernmost point of continental South America. During the transit, America also conducted bilateral engagements with other valued partners in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility such as Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago.

America was delivered to the Navy on April 10, after completing construction in Pascagoula, Miss. The ship is 844 feet in length and has a displacement of approximately 45,000 tons. America’s crew consists of 1,100 Sailors and can embark more than 1,500 Marines.

America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation “big-deck” amphibious ship, America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

Following commissioning in San Francisco, America will conduct operations and training within the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of responsibility.

September 10, 2014 / iDriveWarships

Somerset CO Reflects on Ship Named in Honor of 9/11

Post by Capt. Thomas Dearborn, Commanding Officer of USS Somerset (LPD 25)

The newest amphibious transport dock in the fleet, USS Somerset (LPD 25) is the last of the three ships named in honor of the victims and first responders of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the final resting place of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Penn. On March 1, Somerset joined her sister ships, USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Arlington (LPD 24), in active naval service.

Named after Somerset County, Penn., USS Somerset represents the heroic actions of the 40 crew members and passengers of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93. Had it not been for their brave actions, the terrorists would have reached their intended target and countless more lives would have been lost.

In Somerset’s bow is 22 tons of steel from the towering crane’s dragline bucket used during recovery operations that proudly displayed the American flag near the crash site of United Flight 93. Somerset is and always will be a direct representation of the heroic actions on September 11, 2001 by the crew members and passengers of Flight 93. This reminder of the collective sacrifice and tremendous courage displayed in the face of overwhelming adversity will be a mobile memorial leading Somerset through oceans throughout the world.

To achieve our core responsibility as a Navy, we must build and sustain a ready fighting force. Somerset does this by training and equipping our Sailors with what they need to fight and win today. Like all Navy ships, Somerset’s crew trains like it fights—meaning we develop in our crew a thorough understanding of their equipment, supreme confidence in how it works, and an ability to operate it in any environment. The most technologically advanced equipment means nothing if—when the time comes—our Sailors are unable to operate them. Onboard Somerset, being ready means dedicating the time and resources to train—realistic training that tests our Sailors and builds our crew’s proficiency and confidence. It’s through this training and preparedness that we build that bond of trust, so when the time comes to act, we know when one says “let’s roll,” the rest will follow.

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