By Rear Adm. Frank L. Ponds
Commander Task Force 49
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3
During our recent transit through the Strait of Magellan, USS America (LHA 6) received a special visit from the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. After dinner with the crew, SECNAV was greeted with applause by America’s Sailors and Marines during an all-hands call where I had the pleasure to introduce him. After this warm reception, SECNAV talked about his four priorities for the future: people, platforms, power and partnerships.
“Focusing on these key areas enables us to provide what the Navy and Marine Corps uniquely give the country, and that is presence; being in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time,” he said.
USS America is just the platform to deliver all four of SECNAV’s priorities; representing a new class of ship, her foundation is in aviation- absent is the traditional well-deck to make room for the latest aircraft, specifically the MV-22 Osprey currently and F-35B Lightning II in the future. Increased C5I and medical facilities emphasize America’s multi-role capability as a humanitarian assistance/disaster relief first-responder as well; the architecture of the ship gives it an advantage when responding to a crisis- the long-range, high-speed airlift capabilities make moving people and supplies ashore more expedient than other platforms. From the standpoint of power generation and energy efficiency, USS America’s “hybrid” gas turbines and electrical auxiliary propulsion motors combine to provide the ship extended ranges and high speed endurance without increased fuel consumption.
Presently on her maiden voyage, the America is engaged in a partnership-building ten-week transit of Latin America known as “America visits the Americas.”Along the way, we have met and worked with partner nation Sailors and Marines in Subject Matter Expert Exchanges, Theater Security Cooperation events, bilateral exchanges, community relations, and sports events. These activities are about building and sustaining relationships. USS America’s Sailors and Marines are cultivating enduring and strong relationships which focus on shared interests based on a set of shared values i.e. individual liberties, human rights, personal dignity and a transparent democratic process. I believe that it is vitally important that we leverage our partnerships and relationships with other nations and their militaries to ensure a global presence and to address transnational challenges. Together, we can embody America’s motto: “Prepared in war, and in peace.”