USS RUSHMORE is named after the Mount Rushmore National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. RUSHMORE was built by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mrs. Meredith Brokaw, wife of NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw, christened the ship RUSHMORE May 6, 1989. Commissioning ceremonies were held on June 1, 1991 on the banks of the Mississippi River at the River Walk, New Orleans.
The ship's first assignment was to deliver three Air Cushioned Landing Craft (LCAC) to Camp Pendleton, California from Panama City, Florida. Along the way, RUSHMORE conducted a port visit in Jamaica, traversed the Panama Canal, and visited Rodman, Panama. Camp Pendleton was the last stop before arriving at her homeport of San Diego.
During her first six-month deployment, USS RUSHMORE spearheaded the beach landing on Somalia during Operation RESTORE HOPE, the largest military humanitarian operation in history. Operation RESTORE HOPE was designed to provide food and medical relief to the starving people of Somalia.
RUSHMORE's 1994 WESTPAC deployment came almost one year ahead of schedule. She deployed with only four weeks notice and participated in Operation SUPPORT HOPE off the coast of Mombassa, Kenya, the USLO relocation in Somalia, and exercises with forces of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
RUSHMORE's 1996 deployment followed a complete and highly successful training cycle during which RUSHMORE earned the Blue "E" and the Battle "E". RUSHMORE concluded 1996 with a port visit to Mazatlan, Mexico. The ship earned its second consecutive Battle "E" in 1996.
RUSHMORE enjoyed port visits in Portland, Oregon, Annette Island, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington in 1997. Also in 1997, RUSHMORE became the Navy's first "Smart Ship". The "Smart Ship" concept integrates and evaluates commercial off-the-shelf technologies for future fleet application. Systems include Electronic Chart Display, Integrated Bridge System, and Machinery Control System.
RUSHMORE deployed in 1999 with the PELELIU Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. During this deployment, RUSHMORE participated in Operation IRON MAGIC with the United Arab Emirates and Exercise RED REEF with Saudi Arabia. RUSHMORE also had the distinction of becoming the first United States Naval warship to visit Doha, Qatar in 10 years. Other port visits included Japan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Singapore, Guam, Australia and Hawaii. RUSHMORE returned to San Diego in December 1999 and became the first "Smart Ship" to complete a six-month Western Pacific deployment.
With the new millennium, came a year of local operations for RUSHMORE. The ship last deployed on Dec. 6, 2004 in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM as part of the USS BONHOMME RICHARD Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG 5). On the way to the Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility, a cataclysmic event occurred, which would change the course of RUSHMORE and begin a massive U.S. military humanitarian operation, dubbed Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE. The powerful tsunami that caused tidal waves and flooding in Southeast Asia took the lives of more than 100,000 people in a matter of hours. USS RUSHMORE and the elements of Expeditionary Strike Group FIVE were called into action.
The ship became an afloat staging base for military helicopters to refuel and transport supplies. USS RUSHMORE launched both LCACs bringing tons of food and water ashore for distribution to survivors. Once the operation ended, RUSHMORE reset a course to the Persian Gulf to support Maritime Security Operations, and help defend Iraq's Kwar Al Amaya and Al Basra Oil Platforms. The Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed to Kuwait, and went further north into areas of Iraq before they were brought back onboard in early April.
RUSHMORE Sailors enjoyed two port visits during their two months in the Persian Gulf, one visit to the Mid-Eastern country of Bahrain, the other, a trip to the port of Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates. During the transit home, RUSHMORE stopped for a port visit to Cairns, Australia. RUSHMORE and her crew of more than 330 Sailors returned to the ship's homeport of San Diego, CA on June 6, 2005.
The ship completed a three-month maintenance period and participated in Operation Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) off the Coast of Hawaii from June to August of 2006.
RUSHMORE began 2007 by completing work ups with the BONHOMME RICHARD (ESG 5). They loaded more than 400 marines of the 13th MEU onboard along with their equipment to prepare for the transit to the Middle East.
As April 10th arrived the RUSHMORE was ready to get underway for deployment to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Persian Gulf. Along the way, RUSHMORE stopped by Guam and Singapore before finally arriving in the Gulf. The crew supported the ship-to-shore movement of their embarked Marines to Kuwait. Afterwards, RUSHMORE conducted Maritime Support Operations while making port visits in both Jebel Ali and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Manama, Bahrain. RUSHMORE continued to work with coalition partners in the Persian Gulf until their return to homeport, San Diego, November 19, stopping by Fremantle, Australia and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii along the way.
RUSHMORE certified in ULTRA-C in May 2008 and sailed up to Seattle, Washington, to take part in the Centennial Celebration of the Great White Fleet on May 22. She participated in a parade of ships and later hosted tours to both the general public and guests for the gala.
In late September 2008, RUSHMORE sailed to Esquimalt, British Colombia, Canada, to serve as the test platform for developing ASW systems in the Nanoose Firing Range. While there, RUSHMORE had a three-day port visit and was hosted by HMCS REGINA (FFH 334).
Upon their return home, RUSHMORE finalized their preparations for the Congressionally-mandated Board of Inspection and Survey (InSurv) on October 27, 2008. She also underwent ULTRA-E in November 2008.
In July 2010, RUSHMORE began a one-year mid-life upgrade maintenance period. The ship successfully completed this maintenance in July 2011 and will spend the summer and fall re-certifying in all mission areas in preparation for deployment in 2012.