PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) departed Callao, Peru, Sept. 3 after a three-day port visit.
This was the crew's final port visit on the ship's maiden transit, "America Visits the Americas" as the ship continues to make its way from Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. to its homeport of San Diego.
The crew visited Cartagena, Colombia; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Valparaiso, Chile before visiting Callao, Peru.
While in Peru, the ship hosted a reception in the ship's hangar bay for more than 300 guests. The distinguished guests included the Honorable Brian A. Nichols, U.S. Ambassador to Peru; Gen. John F. Kelly, commander, U.S. Southern Command; as well as senior Peruvian, U.S. government and military officials.
During the visit, the ship's military and civilian crew had the opportunity to experience their host nation and to serve as goodwill ambassadors.
While in port, 25 America Sailors participated in a community relations (COMREL) project with Peruvian Navy sailors at Immaculate Conception Municipal School. The volunteers teamed up with the Peruvian sailors to paint portions of the school and refurbish the lawn.
"It's impressive the impact that a group of Sailors and Marines can have in a community during a few short hours," said Rear Adm. Frank L. Ponds, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, currently embarked on America. "They are great ambassadors for the U.S. because of their can-do spirit and desire to be of service to others during port visits."
America's soccer team also played a friendly match against the local Peruvian Navy team. After the game, members from both teams exchanged mementos and enjoyed a barbecue prepared by the Peruvian Navy. In addition, members of the America crew participated in rugby and basketball games with Peruvian Navy sailors.
"I am very proud of the Sailors and Marines serving on board America," said Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., America's commanding officer. "Throughout this maiden transit, the crew has far exceeded what the expectations typically are for a ship in this phase. From COMREL projects to meaningful exchanges with various countries, everyone on this journey has contributed to something much greater than the ship. They have contributed to the strong bond that exists between the U.S. Navy and navies throughout South America."
Following the ship's departure from anchorage, America conducted a series of formation drills with seven Peruvian naval ships. Hall described the experience as the prime example of partnership building and training.
"Safely performing complex evolutions with another Navy so soon after departing the shipyard is a testament to the quality of Sailors we have in America's bridge and combat information center watch teams," said Hall. "I was impressed with the flawless communication between the Peruvian Navy ships and our own watchstanders, as well as the professionalism of the Peruvian Navy shiphandlers."
America is now on the final leg of its journey to its homeport of San Diego and is expected to arrive mid-September. As the maiden transit comes to an end, the crew continues to strive toward refining its processes and preparing to join the fleet.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. Marine Forces South support U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access and build enduring partnerships to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
America is currently traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility. America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious assault ship, America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The ship is scheduled to be ceremoniously commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco.