MINA SALMAN PIER, Bahrain (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's first afloat forward staging base-interim, USS Ponce (AFSB-I), arrived in Bahrain for duty in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), July 6.
Prior to arriving in theater, Ponce, formerly designated as an amphibious transport dock (LPD), was converted and reclassified as an AFSB(I) in April to fulfill a long-standing U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) request for an AFSB to be located in its AOR.
"Ponce's role as an AFSB provides us with an enhanced capability to conduct maritime security operations, and gives us greater flexibility to support a wide range of contingencies with our regional partners," said Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).
Ponce's primary mission is to support mine countermeasures (MCM) operations and other missions, such as the ability to provide repair service to other deployed units, including electrical, diesel engine, piping, and machinery repairs. Additionally, Ponce also has the capability to embark and launch small riverine craft.
Commanded by a U.S. Navy captain, Ponce will remain a U.S. Navy ship. The newly classed AFSB will be manned by a "hybrid" crew consisting of approximately 150 Military Sealift Command (MSC) civilian mariners and 55 U.S. Navy Sailors. Sailors will be primarily responsible for the ship operations. MSC personnel will man the engineering, deck and damage control departments.
"The versatility of Ponce, combined with the teamwork of its 'hybrid' crew, brings a unique capability to the region." said Capt. Jon Rodgers, commanding officer of Ponce. "As the first dedicated afloat forward staging base, we look forward to working closely with our coalition and regional partners to promote security and stability."
Ponce departed its homeport of Norfolk, Va., June 1. Previously scheduled to decommission, Ponce delayed its scheduled decommissioning to serve as an interim AFSB until a permanent solution can be identified.
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