The US Navy is set to commission the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) in a ceremony on Thursday at Khalifa bin Salman Port in Al Hidd, Bahrain.
The ship still bears the designation of a Military Sealift Command ship but will become a full blown warship after it is commissioned at around 5 p.m. AST.
Redesignating Lewis B. Puller as a commissioned warship will provide the navy with greater operational flexibility which it needs to respond to a security environment that has become “faster paced, more complex and increasingly competitive”.
The ship is currently on its maiden operational deployment after departing Naval Station Norfolk for the US 5th Fleet area of operations in July this year.
Commissioned into the fleet in 2015, the 784ft.-long (238 m) vessel is equipped to support special operations forces and features a 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, and mission-planning spaces.
As the latest warship to join the US Navy, Lewis B. Puller will be commanded by Navy Capt. Adan G. Cruz and crewed by navy sailors and civilian mariners. The civilian mariners will be led by the ship’s Master, Captain Jonathon Olmsted. The commissioning will give combatant commanders greater operational flexibility on how they employ Lewis B. Puller in accordance with the laws of armed conflict.
Lewis B. Puller will be replacing Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce. As an AFSB(I), Ponce was able to stage people and equipment in support of multiple maritime missions in the 5th Fleet area of operations.
Lewis B. Puller will serve as the first ship built specifically for the purpose of serving as an afloat expeditionary sea base.