PEARL HARBOR – San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23), along with the embarked Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, ASEAN, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), departed Pearl Harbor Apr. 7, 2014.
Anchorage will begin transiting back to her homeport of San Diego and will continue a series of ongoing at-sea training evolutions.
While in port, the crew was able to conduct training, strengthen community relations, reenlist at multiple Pearl Harbor landmarks, enjoy some free time, and even host the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, and other defense ministers from the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN), during part of their defense forum.
As part of the first ASEAN Defense forum to be held on U.S. soil, the ship conducted tours showcasing the ship’s well deck capabilities, multiple vehicle stowage areas, flight deck capabilities, medical facilities, and berthing spaces.
While there was an impressive show of force, the tour also showcased the capacity and capabilities for the Navy/Marine Corps team to assist in humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts.
“It's security, it's stability; it's assuring that all nations have commercial options. It is trade, it's exchanges; it's about free people,” said Hagel during a media availability on the flight deck. “We intend to continue to be a Pacific power, to cooperate with our ASEAN partners of all nations in the Asia-Pacific.”
Cmdr. Joel Stewart, Anchorage’s commanding officer, expressed his pride in being the ship selected to host part of the forum.
"It was an honor to have ASEAN and U.S. leaders aboard to showcase our outstanding Navy-Marine team with this new ship and the capabilities it brings as part of the strategic rebalance to the Pacific," said Stewart.
On the other side of the workday, Anchorage also arranged for a group of 20 volunteers to visit veterans in the Pearl Harbor area where they were able to gain some wisdom from times past.
“It was a great experience,” said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Brian Jaggers, the community relations coordinator for the event. “Anytime we have the opportunity to go out there and brighten someone’s day, it feels great; but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t brighten our day just as much.”
The volunteers visited Tripler Army Medical Center where they swapped stories with a variety of veterans, most from the Vietnam War.
“In a way, these guys paved the way for us and made the military what it is today. It was a bad situation for many of them, they had to worry about a jungle environment as well as people shooting at them,” Jaggers said. “It was nice to go and hear their stories and let them share their experiences; to me, that’s what community relations are all about. These guys are the real heroes.”
USS Anchorage (LPD 23) is the seventh San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship. She was built at the Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding site in Avondale, La. She was delivered to the U.S. Navy on Set. 17, 2012 and was commissioned in her namesake city of Anchorage, Alaska on May 4, 2013. She is homeported in San Diego, Calif.