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IWAKUNI, Japan - USS America (LHA 6), the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship, visited Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 18-21.
America, which operates out of Sasebo, Japan, is the first large-deck amphibious ship ever to visit MCAS Iwakuni. The ship hosted military and civic leadership, and regional news agencies, for a tour Nov. 19.
“Our visit here is an opportunity to highlight cooperation and reinforce our alliance with Japan as the cornerstone for regional peace and security,” said Capt. Ken Ward, America’s commanding officer, during a press conference on the ship’s flight deck.
“The main purpose of this port visit is to help Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni exercise and understand the capabilities of this deep-water port facility,” Ward said, “and to have another opportunity to interact with the Japanese and increase our relations with both the Japanese and our Marine Corps brethren.”
America hosted a tour for visitors including Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda, Chugoku-Shikoku Defense Bureau Director-General Manabu Imakyurei, Yamaguchi Prefecture Citizens Affairs Bureau Director Syunji Ohtsuka, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Rear Adm. Takuhiro Hiragi, commander of Fleet Air Wing (FAW) 31. The tour afforded visitors an inside look at America’s capability and crew.
“What’s special about the America class is its aviation capability – some unique features that allow for prolonged aviation operations,” Ward said. “It has substantially more fuel than previous classes, and substantially more armament. It’s specifically designed to support aviation operations, including F-35 aircraft from VMFA-121, based right here at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.”
During the port visit, America Sailors experienced liberty in Iwakuni, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and other Japanese cultural points of interest. They also competed against base Marines in a friendly softball game Nov. 19.
“We were very excited to be here because it’s yet another opportunity to experience a different version of Japanese culture,” said Ward. “We get a lot of great experience in Sasebo, but we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful ride in, and this lovely city has been outstanding. I hope they enjoy the fact that we have come as much as we have enjoyed our time here,” he added.
America, flagship of the America Expeditionary Strike Group, along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners, and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.