It’ll be a different kind of (amphibious ready group.) And the Marines are working through what their concept of operations is going to be. They’ll take a different (vehicle) load … It’ll be a different capability. Much stronger in some areas, not as strong in other areas.
Q: What’s the strength of this new arrangement?
A: Certainly, we can do every mission out there — forward presence, power projection, deterrence. We’ve got a ship with 1,700 Marines with this great capability these new aircraft are going to bring. We can get a whole bunch of Marines behind enemy lines in a hurry. We can evacuate people in a hurry. We can sustain operations out there on station.
Q: What’s the weakness?
A: I don’t think there is a weakness. You know, we can’t bring a tank ashore. But if we are in an (amphibious ready group), that’s what these other ships can do.
Q: How are the ship’s sailors affected by the new paradigm?
A: We have more sailors onboard dedicated to the aviation mission. We have more aviation maintenance folks and flight-deck personnel.
Q: When America is on the horizon, will we see any visual differences from the current big-deck amphibious ships assigned to San Diego — the Makin Island, Boxer, Essex and Peleliu?
A: If you are looking at it from the stern, we don’t have the big gate in the stern. It’s just all steel all the way up. That’s the only perceptible difference. We’re a little bit heavier because we filled in that (well deck) gap with machinery.
Q: Ships usually have memorabilia on board that celebrates the vessel’s namesake. What do you have, or plan to have, for the America?
A: We have some things from the previous (aircraft carrier) America onboard. As far as for the country, we’re designing things. We have some great American slogans we’re going to put throughout the ship. Military slogans from past eras: “I have not yet begun to fight.” On the mess (cafeteria) deck, we plan on calling it the Heroes Café. We’ll have a lot of Medal of Honor pictures, with the citations of what they did for our country.
(The ship’s motto is) “Bello Vel Pace Paratus,” which means “Prepared in War and Peace.” It really fits perfectly. We have a lot of capability to serve in wartime, definitely, but in peacetime also with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Q: Since it’s a post-9/11 ship, are you planning any tributes to those killed in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks?
A: We’re still designing everything. One of the things we are planning is to have a big timeline of American history.
Q: As a ship named for the entire nation, you have a big potential fan base. What kind of feedback are you getting from the public?
A: On our Facebook page, people are very excited to have a ship named America. It’s an honor, it’s also a big responsibility. Where you sail, when you sail, you sail as America. The crew understands that, and they are looking forward to that.