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Mayport-bound, and risen 'from the ashes'

The Amphibious transport dock ship USS New York departs New York City, on Nov. 12, 2013 en route to Naval Station Norfolk before the ship left for its new homeport of Mayport, Fla., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.

The barrel-chested man swaggers as he navigates the arteries of the USS New York. But ask him what serving on the ship means to him and the 20-year Navy veteran gets misty-eyed.

“The phoenix on the crest of our ship represents us rising from the ashes of what happened to us on 9/11,” Command Master Chief Shawn Isbell said. “I do not believe any other command could mean as much as serving on the USS New York.”

The USS New York, with Isbell, 360 sailors and a group of Marines, left Naval Station Norfolk Wednesday morning, cutting the water with its bow stem, made in part of 7½ tons of steel from the rubble of the World Trade Center.

The New York will be followed next year by the other two ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Readiness Group, the USS Fort McHenry and the flagship, the USS Iwo Jima. All three ships will soon call Mayport home.

The ships bear names of three most iconic images involving the Stars and Stripes.

Francis Scott Key wrote his immortal words as he saw the flag remain after the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air over Fort McHenry, in Baltimore.

Joe Rosenthall’s photo is instantly recognizable to many Americans of Marines hoisting Old Glory after they surmounted one of the most formidable obstacles in all of military history: Mount Suribachi at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

In our own generation, an image stirs that stirs emotion for Americans is firefighters raising the flag over the rubble of what just hours before was the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

“It reminds us every day of why we do what we do,” Isbell said.

But beyond the symbolism, there is a real-world job to do for the USS New York.

The teeth of the ship are its flight deck and its cargo bay. The flight deck can host an array of aircraft from Chinook and Seahawk helicopters to Ospreys.

In its cargo bay, the ship can carry more than 800 Marines along with their amphibious vehicles, Humvees and tracked vehicles.

“This ship was deployed for nine months last year with 750 to 800 Marines onboard,” the ship’s commanding officer Capt. Jon C. Kreitz said. “We did operations from the sea whether it was doing amphibious raids, special operations support operations or reinforcing embassies — a lot of things as a Navy/Marine Corps team that other branches can’t do.”
 

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