USS PONCE, At Sea (NNS) -- Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) continued to support military operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), Aug. 27.
Ponce, once an amphibious transport dock (LPD) ship, is now the Navy's first AFSB(I) with a combined crew of U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command (MSC) civilian mariners.
"We've combined the best of two worlds," said Capt. Jon Rodgers, USS Ponce commanding officer. "We've merged the traditional military culture with the mariner's culture."
Ponce's crew consists of approximately 165 MSC personnel and 55 Sailors, which is about 140 crew members less than that of a normal LPD. The military crew members are individual augmentees (IAs) from different commands around the Fleet.
"The ship's operational capability has not decreased with the decrease in personnel manning," Rodgers said. "It took a little time to adjust to working with the civilian mariners, but we work with a very good group of people. Everyone works hard and takes pride in what we do out here."
The MSC crew operates the supply, engineering, deck and navigation departments, while the military crew controls the combat systems, operations, communications and anti-terrorism/force protection (ATFP) departments.
"This ship is not only unique because it has an integrated crew; it is the first attempt to take a Navy ship, place it in this theater, and use it for the staging of other units," said Senior Chief Gunner's Mate Allen Greyer, Ponce's senior enlisted advisor.
As an AFSB(I), Ponce is able to stage people and equipment to support anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-air warfare, mine countermeasure (MCM) operations, patrol craft (PC) and command and control.
"The ship operates its flight deck, well deck, upper and lower vehicle storage and operational working shops like the hydraulics shop, well shop, valve maintenance shop, and filter cleaning shop to assist naval ships, submarines, PCs and MCMs in this AOR," said Rodgers.
"AFSB(I) means that whether you want to conduct an underway replenishment aboard an MCM ship or PC, we can do that. If we need to give supporting parts to an MCM, we can do that too," said Greyer. "In addition, it gives in theater commanders the ability to launch other missions from Ponce. Ponce is a great tool to move people and equipment around in the region to support ongoing missions."
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