The U.S. Navy converted USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3) to a U.S. naval warship, commissioning the Expeditionary Sea Base, USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) during a ceremony at Khalifa bin Salman Port in Al Hidd, Bahrain, August 17.
Puller is 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 ship’s reclassification provides U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. 5th Fleet greater flexibility to better meet regional challenges.
Vice Admiral Donegan, commander of Naval Forces Central Command said, «The Puller isn’t 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 continues 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.
Puller’s namesake, Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell «Chesty» Puller, was the most decorated Marine in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. He is one of only two men, and the only Marine, to be awarded five Navy Crosses. He fought in Haiti and Nicaragua, as well as several key battles in World War II and the Korean War.
«For the most part, Puller spent much of his time in the Pacific», said Lieutenant General Dave Beydler, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command. «Why was he there? Because that is where the fight was … I would argue that if he lived in our era, he would have spent a majority of his time in this region, the CENTCOM area of responsibility. I’m glad to have Chesty Puller back where the fight is».
Captain Adan G. Cruz is the USS Puller’s first commanding officer. Per naval tradition, Cruz read his orders before addressing those in attendance.
«It is really an honor to be part of a team and part of a crew with great Sailors and great civilian mariners», said Cruz.
Puller’s crew of nearly 150 Sailors and civilian mariners work in concert with one another as did those on the ship’s predecessor, USS Ponce (AFSB-(I) 15) to extend U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s maritime reach in 5th Fleet by supporting a wide variety of missions including counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid, disaster relief and crisis response operations.