Wednesday, September 03, 2008

San Antonio Begins Its Maiden Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) heads to sea as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (IWO ESG) supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tyler J. Wilson/Released)

USS SAN ANTONIO, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) deployed from its homeport of Naval Station Norfolk Aug. 28 as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).

San Antonio's departure marks its first deployment since it's commissioning Jan. 14, 2006 and the first deployment of a San Antonio-class amphibious ship.

"It is truly an honor and privilege to be part of LPD 17's maiden deployment," said Cmdr. Kurt Kastner, San Antonio's commanding officer. "When I look back at the accomplishments and effort by the crew getting the first ship in the San Antonio-class warship ready, I am proud and humbled at the same time."

San Antonio provides unique capabilities that have never been incorporated into any previously-deployed ESG.

"The operational flexibility of our strike group is greatly enhanced by San Antonio's capabilities," said Capt. Brian T. Smith, commander, Iwo Jima ESG. "Its multi-functional design supports technological advances in landing craft, aircraft and amphibious vehicles. The ship has a state-of-the-art command and control suite, more than double the storage space of the ships it replaces and advanced survivability features that enhance its ability to operate in the littoral environment."

This deployment is not only the first for San Antonio but the first for many of the ship's Sailors as well.

"It's ironic that my first deployment is the first for the San Antonio also," said Interior Communication's Specialist 3rd Class Thomas Quintavalle. "I've waited for this moment for a long time -- to visit places in the world that I dreamed of seeing as a kid."

The path to getting San Antonio prepared for her maiden voyage was scattered with a variety of technical challenges. The ship's departure from Norfolk is evidence of the dedicated effort of the crew and provides a sense of accomplishment for its Sailors.

"I wanted to help see this ship get underway to show that the blood, sweat and tears from its crew - both past and present - have paid off," said Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class (SW) Walt Douglas, executive department leading petty officer.

The sense of accomplishment is shared by Smith.

"San Antonio and its Sailors are ready," he said. "The ship demonstrated flawless execution of procedures for getting underway and conducted a highly efficient onload of Marines and their equipment. I fully expect to see the same excellence from San Antonio and its crew throughout deployment."

San Antonio joined the rest of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7); the dock-landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61); all homeported at Norfolk, Va.; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), homeported at Mayport, Fla.; and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported at Groton, Conn.

The Iwo Jima ESG with its more than 6,000 Sailors and Marines, deployed Aug. 26-29 for a regularly scheduled deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO). MSO helps set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations.

The strike group will also support the other tenets of the Navy's Maritime Strategy, which include forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. The Maritime Strategy represents a new vision for the 21st century and establishes new capabilities to codify longstanding challenges, while maintaining the focus on enduring missions.