Bringing USS America to Life
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.