WASHINGTON --- The Navy will commission the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) during a 5 p.m. AST ceremony Thursday, August 17, at Khalifa bin Salman Port in Al Hidd, Bahrain.
The future 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 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.
As the security environment has become faster paced, more complex and increasingly competitive, the Navy has a growing need to station more diverse and capable warships around the globe. Redesignating USNS Lewis B. Puller as a commissioned warship will allow 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.