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T-ESB 3 Lewis B. Puller

Lewis B. Puller is the first of three modified expeditionary mobile bases that were previously referred to as afloat forward staging bases. Construction of the second of three ships, USNS Hershel Woody Williams (T-ESB-4), started in August while construction start for T-ESB-5 was planned for FY2017.

The Navy commissioned the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) during a 5 p.m. AST ceremony Thursday, 17 Aug. 2017, at Khalifa bin Salman Port in Al Hidd, Bahrain. The Lewis B. Puller - currently USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3 )- is the second ship to bear the name of Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, a distinguished combat veteran of World War II and the Korean War. Puller is the only Marine to have been awarded the Navy Cross on five separate occasions and is the most decorated individual in the history of the USMC. The first Lewis B. Puller (FFG 23), an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate, served from 1982-1998, and was then transferred to the Egyptian Navy and renamed Toushka (F.906).

Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Lt. Gen. William D. Beydler, commander, Marine Forces Central Command, will also speak. Marine Brig. Gen. Frank Donovan, commander of Naval Amphibious Forces, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Unit (TF 51/5), will read a letter of dedication from Mrs. Martha P. Downs, Puller's daughter and the ship's sponsor.

"The name Gen. Lewis "Chesty" B. Puller is synonymous with heroism and service," said the Honorable Richard V. Spencer, Secretary of the Navy. "His example lives not just in every Marine but in every service member who faithfully serves our nation. Today's commissioning of USS Lewis B. Puller continues that legacy, and I know those who will serve on this ship will serve our nation with the same dedication as Chesty Puller."

As the latest warship to join the U.S. Navy, Lewis B. Puller was 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 replaced 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 would serve as the first ship built specifically for the purpose of serving as an afloat expeditionary sea base.

As the security environment has become faster paced, more complex and increasingly competitive, the Navy had a growing need to station more diverse and capable warships around the globe. Redesignating USNS Lewis B. Puller as a commissioned warship allowed the Navy greater operational flexibility and provide critical support to TF 51/5's joint forces at sea, from the sea and ashore to meet potential threats in the 5th Fleet area of operations.

Puller was the first U.S. ship to be commissioned outside the United States. With its commissioning, the U.S. Navy adds yet another warship towards its goal of having a larger, more capable force. The ships reclassification provides U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet greater flexibility to better meet regional challenges.

Vice Adm. Donegan, commander of Naval Forces Central Command said, The Puller isnt just another ship, but a revolutionary concept; a ship that provides us a key platform that will provide continuity to a variety of operations, he continued saying, Named after the most decorated Marine in American history, the USS Lewis B. Puller will provide greater operational flexibility to 5th Fleet, forward-deployed as the first ship built specifically for the purpose of serving as an expeditionary sea base. As such, it will augment our amphibious forces, not replace them, mine countermeasure forces and provide an expeditionary sea base for maritime security operations throughout the region.

The need for new solutions to new problems in the 5th Fleet area of operations continued to grow and Donegan recognized the challenge. As the security environment becomes faster paced, more complex and increasingly competitive, with the ever-growing and evolving challenge of asymmetric threats from state and non-state actors alike, the Navy has a growing need to station more diverse and capable warships around the globe. Commissioning this expeditionary sea base, the USS Lewis B. Puller, will allow the Navy and Marine Corps team to meet the threats in the region head on, said Donegan.

The U.S. Navy awarded General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding (NASSCO) a $34.5 million contract for the post shakedown availability of USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3). During the maintenance works, NASSCO also upgraded the ship to allow it to support special operations forces.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Muehlbauer, Pullers military crew officer-in-charge, said in June this year that the 2015-commissioned expeditionary mobile base would undergo upgrades and modifications prior to being permanently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in 2017.

The Puller is going to receive an upgrade which will enable special operations forces (SOF) to utilize the ship for operations, Muehlbauer said at the time. The Puller will be able to support maritime interdictions, operations potentially in-country, and different adaptive military packages to perform different types of SOF contingencies throughout the world. USNS Lewis B. Puller was overhauled in Norfolk, Virginia and the work was completed by April 2017.




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