NORFOLK (NNS) -- U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) began requesting volunteers from USFF activities to man the soon-to-be redesignated USS Ponce (LPD 15) for operations in the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR), Feb. 2.
USS Ponce will serve as an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB), instead of its orginal plan to decommission in March. Ponce will deploy this summer in order to fulfill a long-standing request for an AFSB in the USCENTCOM AOR.
According to Capt. Cynthia Womble, USFF assistant deputy chief of staff for Fleet Personnel Development and Allocation, this is a great opportunity for some hard-charging Sailors to be on the leading edge of a new program.
"This really is an excellent opportunity for Sailors step out of their comfort zone and be a part of something really unique. The AFSB is a concept that has been floated for quite some time now and the Sailors who volunteer for this mission are going to be the ones who have the greatest impact on the future of this program," said Womble. "In today's very competitive environment this type of assignment could make a difference in a Sailor's career options and promotion opportunities."
As AFSB(I) 15 (I for "Interim"), the warship will be commanded by a Navy captain and manned by a combined crew of officers, enlisted Sailors, and Military Sealift Command (MSC) government civilian mariners. Ponce will remain homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, with volunteer officers and Sailors serving on the ship under Individual Augmentees (IA) orders. Tour lengths will be 12 months.
While deployed, Ponce will support Mine Counter Measure and Coastal Patrol (PC) ships, and aircraft operations with the capability to support multiple mission packages as detachments when requested by USCENTCOM and/or U.S. 5th Fleet.
Commands with interested Sailors and officers should reference USFF message 250920Z JAN 12 REQUEST FOR VOLUNTEERS TO MAN AFLOAT FORWARD STAGING BASE. A link to the message is contained on the USFF website www.cffc.navy.mil.
Selected Sailors will serve a one-year tour aboard and receive IA credit for their tour. They will be eligible for Sea Pay and family separation allowance in addition to other special pays appropriate to duties in their operating location.
The majority of the Navy crew will be filled with, but not limited to, information systems technicians (IT), electronics technicians (ET), fire controlmen (FC), operations specialists (OS), gunner's mates (GM) and seamen.
For screening purposes, volunteers are required to satisfactorily screen for sea duty.
Nominee information is required via the Individual's Chain of Command to USFF NLT 9 Feb. 2012.
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