By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Wiss Navy News
MAYPORT, Fla — The Mayport community welcomed over 350 new neighbors to Northeast Florida when the USS New York (LPD 21) changed homeport from Naval Station Norfolk to Naval Station Mayport Dec. 6.
USS New York is one of three ships that make up Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) the Navy is moving from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla. The other two ships – USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and USS Fort McHenry (LSD-45) – are slated to arrive as early as 2014. The three ships will bulk up the Navy’s fleet at Mayport, as the station’s frigates are retiring. The USS Underwood and the USS Klakring were decommissioned in March. According to U.S. Rep. Alder Crenshaw, the move is a win-win situation for the Navy and the Mayport community.
“As Congress deals with very difficult budget decisions, this is promising news for national security and the First Coast,” Crenshaw said in a statement. “This first phase of the amphibious ready group move to Mayport underscores the Navy’s commitment to a strategic dispersal of assets – a strategy I have long advocated on Capitol Hill.”
USS New York is not the first Navy ship to hold that state’s name, but never before has the name had so much meaning. The amphibious transport dock was built with 7 1/2 tons of steel from the World Trade Center. The USS New York is not the only ship that will be named to commemorate the attacks, but it is the first. USS Somerset is under contract and the USS Arlington will follow. According to USS New York’s Commanding Officer Capt. Jon C. Kreitz, although leaving Hampton Roads was difficult, maritime strategy is the main job for the new ship.
“This is just the first of three ships going down there to make sure that Mayport remains that second strategic homeport for the fleet,” he said “There’s a big part of us that didn’t want to leave Hampton Roads, at the same time, we’re very excited to be a part of the Mayport family.”
Many Navy families had the daunting task of moving from Norfolk to Mayport in a short amount of time. According to Operations Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Devore, it was tough moving suddenly but the many activities offered on Naval Station Mayport and the surrounding areas are worth the stress of moving to a new area.
“We were able to get base housing in only two days,” he said. “The help from the Fleet and Family Support Center was fantastic.”
“It was a little hectic moving two small children, but we made it work,” said Angela Devore. “I am looking forward to the many beaches in the area. When the kids get a little older, we are definitely going to Disney World.”
The San Antonio-class LPD (USS New York) ships are used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies. These ships support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups. Amphibious ships like USS New York provide the nation a crisis response capability and demonstrate the Navy-Marine Corps team in action. The Navy is committed to strategic dispersal and at least two viable East Coast surface ship homeports as well as the preservation of the ship repair industrial base in the Mayport area. According to Naval Station Mayport Commanding Officer Capt. Wesley McCall the addition of up to 2,000 families to the area after all is said and done will be a boost for national defense and to the economy of Mayport.
“I think we’re going to see some significant growth with USS Fort McHenry and USS Iwo Jima coming next year and the new littoral combat ships soon to follow,” he said. “You bring 2,000 new families here; the benefits are going to be pretty substantial. The Sailors and their families aboard USS New York are the ones who will benefit the most. Jacksonville and especially the Mayport area are huge military supporters.”