USS Ponce: This is what we mean by offshore options

U.S. merchant mariners have always been ready where it matters, when it matters. Today they continue that proud tradition by operating forward in support of our Navy’s warfighters. National Maritime Day was May 22 and this week, we’re celebrating the thousands of civilian mariners who support our freedom as part of YOUR Navy’s Military Sealift Command. These men and women are vital to our readiness, truly making our Navy ready wherever and whenever called upon.

Ponce - Maritime Week Poster 2013

As our Navy’s first dedicated afloat forward staging base, USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) provides flexible capabilities where they’re needed to support warfighters in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. Ponce just concluded its participation in the at-sea portion of International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013, where 41 nations exercised the afloat staging base concept aboard Ponce and RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009).

Ponce brought a lot to the table during the exercise, which included surface mine countermeasures, mine hunting and airborne mine countermeasures operations. After refit as an interim AFSBI and deployment to U.S. 5th Fleet in June 2012, Ponce added repair ship functions for mine countermeasures, special forces, riverine, joint and partnership/coalition embarks to the legacy well deck, busy flight deck and cargo storage. The ship also boasts the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle as an asset.

Another major asset is Ponce’s hybrid crew, where 165 civil service mariners operate the supply, engineering, deck and navigation departments, while 55 uniformed Navy personnel manage the combat systems, operations, communications and anti-terrorism/force protection departments.

Ponce’s continued, successful service operating forward for our Navy is a testament to the hard work of the team that spearheaded the ship’s conversion, and the ship’s crew under the leadership of Capt. Jon P. Rodgers.

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