Tortuga was relieved by USS Ashland (LSD 48) during a hull swap in which the crew of Ashland delivered the ship to Sasebo, Japan and returned USS Tortuga to her homeport - the culminating achievement of a four-month deployment.
"This hull swap has been a year in the making", said Cmdr. Brett Hershman, commanding officer of Tortuga. "Throughout the work-ups and transit [to Japan] and back...the crew preformed magnificently - I couldn't have asked any more from them."
On June 27, the crew deployed from Little Creek aboard Ashland to deliver the newly upgraded ship to the Japan-based crew of Tortuga. Ashland recently went through the Dock Landing Ship (LSD) midlife modernization, upgrading legacy equipment and control stations with more updated, computer based systems.
The swap between the crews took several weeks and included training, familiarization, and inventories in preparation for sea trials, crew certification, and Tortuga's ultimate sail away and return to Norfolk.
In addition to the crew swap, the commanding officers also changed platforms with Hershman taking command of the Tortuga, and Cmdr. John Barnett taking command of the Ashland.
The Navy utilizes the hull swap program to maintain material-ready ships in forward deployed assignments, while allowing crews and their families to remain at the same homeport.
"The [hull swap] process is regularly used by the Navy to transition ships from a forward deployed area back state side," said Hershman. "Ships operating out of Sasebo have a very high operational tempo; periodically bringing them back gives us a chance to perform more extensive maintenance and routine modifications to ensure their continued value to the fleet."
Returning home to the Hampton Roads area after departing for Japan earlier this year, the crew's deployment covered more than 21,500 nautical miles and included two transits of the Panama Canal.
Upon Tortuga's return, the crew will focus on maintenance and repairs. Tortuga will remain operational in the Atlantic fleet throughout 2014, supporting local operations, training exercises and remaining on call for any emergency requirements.
LSD's are designed to transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles in support of amphibious assault operations.