RIO DE JANEIRO (NNS) -- The future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) departed Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 9 after a four-day port visit.
This was the crew's third stop on the ship's maiden transit, "America Visits the Americas" as the ship continues to make its way from Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. to its homeport of San Diego. The crew first visited Cartagena, Colombia and then Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
While in Brazil, the ship hosted a reception in the ship's hangar bay for more than 450 guests. The distinguished guests included The Honorable Liliana Alayde, U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, as well as senior Brazilian, 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.
"The city was all that I dreamed it would be," said Quartermaster 2nd Class Armando Diaz. "Myself and many of my shipmates enjoyed visiting the 'Christ the Redeemer' statue as well as the beach, great food and culture."
While moored at the Port of Rio de Janeiro, the crew participated in several community relations (COMREL) projects with local Brazilian military members.
Twenty-five Sailors teamed up with members of the Brazilian Navy at Albert Schweitzer Municipal School Aug. 6, for a COMREL project. Together they painted the gate and wall in front of the school, and played soccer with the students.
The two groups met up again Aug. 8 at the United States Municipal School where they made minor repairs to the school, helped build shelving in the classrooms and played with the students during recess. America Sailors also presented soccer balls to students throughout both school visits to enjoy.
"The Navy-Marine Corps team is 'can-do'," said Rear Adm. Frank L. Ponds, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, currently embarked on America. "Whether operating at sea or ambassadors ashore, we are always looking for opportunities to be value added - pitching in whenever and wherever we can. Being able to participate in COMREL projects afford us the opportunity to work side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder in partnering with our Brazilian friends as they give back to the community."
America's soccer team also played a friendly match against the local Brazilian Naval team. The two teams met in the center of the field and four players from each team unfolded the flags from their respective countries. With both flags displayed, the national anthems from both countries were sung by each team. After the game, members from America and Brazilian teams exchanged mementos.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Raul Garciavillavicencio, USS America soccer team player, said playing against the local soccer team was a great experience. The local Brazilian Navy soccer team practiced regularly with the national Brazilian team, who recently played in the "World Cup. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to play a team of their caliber," said Garciavillavicencio.
America is also scheduled to visit Chile and Peru where the crew will continue enriching partnerships through a variety of interactions with the host nations.
"Our Sailors and Marines anticipated this visit, not only for the exciting opportunity to work with our Brazilian counterparts, but to experience the best Brazil has to offer in culture, music and food that has made [the city] famous worldwide," said Ponds. "Visiting Brazil and its many natural and man-made wonders of the world was on many of our 'bucket-lists of things to do and places to go'."
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, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships in order 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 on her maiden transit, "America Visits the Americas". 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.