CALLAO, Peru (NNS) -- The future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) anchored off of the coast of Peru for the final port visit of the ships maiden transit, "America Visits the Americas", Aug. 31.
During the port visit, Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force South (SPMAGTF-South) conducted a theater security cooperation event ashore with the Peruvian Marine Corps while distinguished visitors were hosted aboard the ship for a press conference and reception.
Marines with SPMAGTF-South were transported ashore via MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) to conduct the scheduled TSC. The TSC was made up of multiple bi-lateral exchanges on marksmanship, martial arts, medical aid and explosive ordnance disposal.
"The past few days we have been working with the Peruvian Marine Corps, exchanging ideas and training techniques with them," said Capt. Blaine Barby, commanding officer of the Ground Combat Element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force South, and a native of Beaver, Okla. "The main purpose of these exchanges is to build relationships, to get both our Marines some experience with one another and learn the best takeaways that both our services can benefit from."
The press conference was held on the flight deck of the ship with the Peruvian media. It provided the media with the opportunity to hear from U.S. Southern Command's leadership, the ship's command and Peruvian officials.
"This is USS AMERICA's last port stop before it returns to the United States. I specifically wanted the America to stop here in Peru to really demonstrate our great admiration for this country," said Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command. "When I think of close partners, one of the very first countries that comes to mind is Peru."
An evening reception was held in the hangar bay of the ship for distinguished Peruvian Guests. The reception was hosted by the Marines and Sailors aboard the ship and the U.S. Ambassador to Peru Brian A. Nichols. The night was meant to honor the valued relationship between our two nations.
"As I stood here listening to our national anthems, I am reminded about how much history we have in common," said Rear Adm. Frank L. Ponds, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3. "And to celebrate our last and final port visit, I can think of no other place we would rather spend it at than here, in Peru. Most people see our countries as being separated by water, but for me it signifies what joins us together."
Ship tours were also provided daily for Peruvian officials and guests. The tours included multiple static displays showcasing the assets and capabilities of SPMAGTF-South.
The Marines and Sailors of SPMAGTF-South have been embarked aboard USS America in support of all five of her port visits during her transit. A SPMAGTF is a balanced air, ground and logistics force that can be tailored to accomplish missions across a wide range of crises. SPMAGTF-South has demonstrated the flexibility, utility and unparalleled expeditionary capability the Navy-Marine Corps team provides our nation and partners.