PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Under Secretary of the Navy Dr. Janine Davidson visited amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) while the ship was underway participating in the 2016 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, July 18.
During her time aboard, Davidson toured the combat information center, amphibious air traffic control center, joint information center, a main engine room, and ate on the ship's mess decks with Sailors and Marines.
America's history and future were among the topics of discussion during the under secretary's lunch with the crew.
"It made me feel like I had some input in what the future of the Navy is going to be like," said Quartermaster 3rd Class Dartagnan Carcana, assigned to America. "It was a nice experience knowing that what I said is being heard."
"A lot of people were really nervous at first just because it was a VIP visit, but afterward the consensus was 'that was pretty cool,'" said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tavaris Hobbs, assigned to Fleet Surgical Team 1 with Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3. "It's something that you'll rarely be able to do in your naval career."
Davidson said visiting the ship during the world's largest multinational maritime exercise was high on her list of things to do, and she appreciated talking to the Sailors, Marines and partners aboard to hear about how much they're learning and how much they enjoy their jobs.
"You can't come out here and not be amazed at the choreographed ballet that is [amphibious] operations, especially out on the flight deck," Davidson said.
RIMPAC provides the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps the opportunity to evaluate gear, new equipment, and new operational concepts; and being able to conduct these assessments on a multinational level is critical.
"We can tell and test the degree to which our interoperability and the way in which we cooperate together has improved over time, so it absolutely pays multiple dividends," said Davidson.
When nations work together during exercises such as RIMPAC, they will be better prepared to respond in the future, because it won't be the first time working together as a multinational team, she added.
While aboard, Davidson toured the ship with Capt. Michael W. Baze, America's commanding officer. One stop on the tour was a main engine room. Davidson was particularly interested in the ship's hybrid electric drive and fuel conservation efforts as part of the Great Green Fleet initiative.
America's hybrid electric propulsion system uses a gas turbine engine as well as an electric motor and diesel generator. The electric motor propels the ship through the water while the generator produces the ship's electricity. Similar to a hybrid car, once the ship reaches 12 knots, the gas-turbine engine kicks in.
High ranking officials tour ships to get a glimpse of the practical application of their decisions made for the good of Sailors and Marines and the equipment they operate. In many cases, the officials have been in the Sailors' shoes and are working to improve the way ahead.
"I wholeheartedly believe that visits like these are necessary for the crew," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ricky Williams, assigned to America. "As much as we get wrapped into our routines, to be able to get that outside look at everything ... and know that they do care enough to take that time to spend with us Sailors, that means a lot to me personally."
"I know it takes a little bit away from your day-to-day operations, but it's incredibly important and really, really valuable for people like me and also for our congressional partners and our international partners to be able to take a day like this and walk through and actually see what's happening," said Davidson. "We have to make decisions every day, and having a sense of what you're doing out here, what challenges you have, is incredibly valuable."
Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
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For more news from USS America (LHA 6), visit www.navy.mil/local/lha6/.