USS America to conduct training around Hawaii this week
By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 13, 2017
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The USS America amphibious ready group and two of its support ships will conduct training around Oahu and Hawaii island Thursday through Monday and make a stop in Pearl Harbor on its first overseas deployment, officials said.
The ship group comprises more than 1,800 sailors and 2,600 Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America, amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor, and amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego and includes the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The $3 billion America, commissioned in 2014, is what’s known as an “aviation-centric” amphibious ship in that the aircraft carrier-like ship doesn’t have a rear well deck for amphibious vehicles as is the case with most ships of its type. The extra space is used for tilt-rotor Ospreys and helicopters.
The Navy also has tested the new F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft, on the ship.
Sailors and Marines with the amphibious group departed their homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Friday for a seven-month deployment, the Navy said.
The Navy said the America and its ships are scheduled to operate in the Pacific, Middle East, and the Horn of Africa, conducting maritime security operations, crisis response capability, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence.
The training conducted in Hawaii will include ship-to-shore operations, a company-sized helicopter and amphibious raid, combat marksmanship, and fire support operations, which includes calling in artillery. Marine Corps Training Area Bellows is expected to be used for amphibious assaults.
“This training is significant because it carries on the high standards and mission effectiveness we reached over predeployment work-ups. As we make our way into the next phase of our deployment, we want to extend to our partners and allies the best we have to offer,” Lt. Col. Patrick Byrne, the operations officer for the 15th MEU, said in a release. “We have a responsibility to our nation and allies to be the best crisis response and contingency force. Maintaining our proficiency to be ready when called upon and building relationships in the countries we visit remains our top priority.”
After sustainment training in Hawaii, the America will sail to the Western Pacific to participate in training exercises with other nations.