In this file photo, the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) conducts builder's trials in March. (Huntington Ingalls photo)

SAN DIEGO - The amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) arrived at her homeport of San Diego Nov. 18, completing the ship's maiden voyage.

Following four years of construction and successful sea trials this summer in the Gulf of Mexico, the Navy's newest amphibious transport dock ship set sail in August for home. Along the way, the crew conducted equipment checks, system tests, crew certification, and countless hours of underway training.

Upon her departure the ship visited Newport, R.I., where the crew hosted the leadership of more than 100 heads of navies as part of the CNO's International Seapower Symposium (ISS), and commissioned at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia. In addition, the ship made port visits to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Bridgetown, Barbados, where they engaged in local community relations projects. They visited Mayport, Florida to prepare for their Panama Canal transit and made one last stop in Balboa, Panama, before arriving in San Diego.

"As we look forward to arriving home in San Diego and reuniting with family and friends, I could not be more proud of this crew," Capt. Kevin Parker, USS John P. Murtha's commanding officer, said en route. "During our sail around up and down the East Coast and through the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, they have executed every assigned engagement and tasking with professionalism and precision. They truly exemplify the "Make a Difference" attitude that our ship's motto demands, and I have full confidence that this ship and her crew are ready for whatever is asked of us."

USS John P. Murtha is the tenth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. These versatile ships incorporate both a flight deck to accommodate all U.S. Marine Corps helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, as well as a well deck that can launch and recover landing craft and amphibious vehicles. The San Antonio class's increased vehicle space and substantial cargo carrying capacity make it a key element of 21st century amphibious ready groups, expeditionary strike groups, and joint task forces.

"To be a part of a commissioning crew, also known as a plankowner, is a very special honor that not all Sailors get the opportunity to be a part of during their career," said Master Chief Petty Officer Jon Crisafulli, the command's senior enlisted leader. "To watch this crew come together from day one and exceed all expectations has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my Naval career. I am proud of each and every Sailor on board, and we are all excited to bring our ship to our new home in San Diego."

The ship is named in honor of Congressman John P. Murtha, who served his country both as a Marine and in the halls of Congress. Murtha served in the Marine Corps for more than 20 years and saw service in Vietnam, a tour that earned him the Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Murtha represented Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District from 1974 until his death in 2010.

USS John P. Murtha will provide improved warfighting capabilities, including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased vehicle and cargo lift capability and advanced ship survivability features. The ship is capable of embarking a landing force of nearly 800 Marines.