America’s newest warship is making its way along the coast of South America as it steams to its commissioning ceremony in San Francisco this fall.
The USS America -- described by Navy officials as the first of a new class of amphibious assault ships -- is “showing the flag” as it heads to California. America is scheduled to be commissioned in San Francisco on Oct. 11 during the city’s Fleet Week.
After taking nearly five years to build, America underwent her sea trials last fall. She set out on her maiden voyage earlier this month, pulling out of Pascagoula, Mississippi on July 11.
After being at sea for just five days, as part of a training exercise, a group of 40 Marines and Navy corpsmen crowded into two MV-22 Osprey aircraft and were launched from America’s flight deck in what was the first mission to take off from the ship.
The Marines and Navy corpsmen were flown into the Colombian jungle, where they took part in a training exercise with Colombian marines, known as Infanteria De Marina de Colombia. Colombia has been fighting for decades against the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, a group classified by the U.S. and other countries as a terrorist organization.
FARC raises money to fight the Colombian military by kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, extortion and the production and distribution of illegal drugs.
According to a release from the Navy, Marine Capt. Blaine Barby said the training between the Americans and Colombians was beneficial to both sides.
"The Colombians have a significant marine corps, and Colombia is a significant partner in our counter-narcotics operations,” Barby was quoted as saying in the release. “It is absolutely critical that we maintain a good relationship."
Besides training exercises, on the way to San Francisco, America is a making several stops, including a visit to Cartagena, Colombia. After the ship pulled into Columbia's fifth largest city, her crew delivered 52 pallets of medical supplies and toys to sick children.
America also visited the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, where the ship’s command staff welcomed aboard some of Trinidad and Tobago’s top officials, including the minister of national security, chief of defense staff and representatives from prime minister’s office.
As she steams towards San Francisco, America will also make visits to Brazil, Chile and Peru.
America is the fourth ship to be named after our nation. Her predecessors include a 74-gun warship built and launched in 1782 for the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War.
There was also a World War I troop ship, and an aircraft carrier named America.
The aircraft carrier was commissioned in 1965 and patrolled the South China Sea during the Vietnam War. She was also sent into action in both wars with Iraq, before being scuttled and sunk -- despite protests from former crew members -- in 2005.
Measuring 844 feet long, the new America’s mission will be to serve as the flagship of an expeditionary strike group of amphibious ready group. The ship will be able to send Marines into battle and put them ashore with helicopters and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, supported by fighter jets and helicopter gunships.
Her sponsor, Lynn Pace, describes her as “a sort of mini-aircraft carrier.” Pace, wife of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Peter Pace, christened the ship in October of 2012.
After America is commissioned in San Francisco, her home port will be in San Diego.