GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock Pre-Commissioning Unit John P. Murtha (LPD 26) pulled into Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB), Cuba, the only main operating base in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility, for an overnight port visit, Aug. 17.
According the ship's webpage, she is named for John P. Murtha, a retired Marine Corps Reserve officer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1969 to 1974. Murtha was also the first Vietnam War veteran elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
John P. Murtha's keel was laid down June 6, 2012 at Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was then launched Oct. 30, 2014, with her christening held March 21, 2015 -- with Donna S. Murtha, the congressman's daughter, as the ship's sponsor.
"We got underway from our building yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi on August 11 and this is our very first stop on our maiden voyage," said John P. Murtha Operations Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Will Ashley. "This is my first pre-commissioned ship, and to be able to see the progress from the building phase to the trial phase and ultimately to crew the ship and take her out, is truly an honor."
John P. Murtha provided tours throughout the day, which presented a unique opportunity for the residents of NSGB and Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay to see the Navy's newest amphibious ship. More than 400 personnel were able to tour the ship, including NSGB's Drug Education for Youth camp members.
The tours included a look around the quarterdeck, pilot house, well deck, medical and dental areas, mess decks, hangar bay, the flight deck, common control system and a stop at the ship's gift shop for souvenirs.
After completing the tours and other work operations, crew members were able to enjoy a night of liberty on the installation before departing the following morning.
The ship will carry more than 600 troops with a capacity up to 800 and will have the capability to transport and debark air cushion or conventional landing craft and amphibious vehicles, augmented by helicopters or vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (MV-22).
John P. Murtha's visit is part of an ongoing maritime mission to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build partnerships with Caribbean, Central American, and South American maritime forces.
LPDs like John P. Murtha are able to support amphibious and expeditionary operations, serve as aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups, and be called on to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, if required, which is especially useful during the active hurricane season.
"The ship is built very well," remarked Ashley. "The people at Ingalls Shipbuilding have done a phenomenal job. Getting underway you have a tendency to feel a little nervous being a brand new ship, but we've put her through her paces and she has responded and performed flawlessly."
According to Ashley, the crew is looking forward to continuing their maiden voyage and handling the missions and tasking U.S. 4th Fleet has for them while they are in the area.
"After we leave the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations we will head up the east coast of the U.S. and we'll be the show ship for the International Seapower Symposium," said Ashley. "We are really excited about that. It is put on by the chief of naval operations and there are lots of foreign dignitaries and navies that will be out there showing casing."
After the symposium, John P. Murtha will then head to Philadelphia to conduct their official commissioning ceremony, Oct. 8, 2016.
Upon commissioning, the ship will transit to her homeport of San Diego.
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For more news from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/guantanamo/.