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USS America concludes visit to Israel
The America-class amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), along with embarked Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), departed Eilat, Israel, after a scheduled port visit Oct. 9, 2017.
While in port, Sailors and Marines had the opportunity to enjoy liberty and participate in tours of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem that were provided by the ship’s morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) program.
“The Dead Sea was an amazing experience,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Beatriz Gil. “This country is beautiful and it was surreal being here. MWR put together a great tour with amazing guides who helped us understand the historical significance of where we were.”
The tour provided the opportunity to see the Old City, a part of Jerusalem that is the heart of the city and Jewish history.
“Israel is a beautiful country with an immense amount of history,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jon Levine, a platoon sergeant with the 15th MEU’s Force Reconnaissance Det. “It was an absolute pleasure to be afforded the opportunity to visit such a friendly, welcoming nation. Having the chance to visit Jerusalem during Sukkot was a lifelong dream of mine. I am very happy to have taken this once in a lifetime trip.”
The tour started off at Mount Scopus, where Marines and Sailors were able to get a bird’s eye view of the city after everyone made their way to the Jaffa Gate and witnessed several sites of key religious importance. Gale Mashiach was one of the tour guides the Marines and Sailors were able to interact with.
“I enjoy working with people from all over the world and sharing with everyone the history of this amazing country,” said Mashiach, who has been a tour guide for 12 years. “I like to really show off Israel, it’s just a fascinating country – so much to see, so many different cultures.”
America’s commanding officer reflected on his thoughts of the recent port visit.
“The historical magnitude of the city of Jerusalem is important to many Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world including those serving in our armed forces,” said Capt. Joseph Olson, America’s commanding officer. “For many of our crew, it was a once-in-a- lifetime experience to be able to immerse themselves in the culture and sights of Israel which hold a significant importance to many on board.”
During the tour to Jerusalem, several Sailors and Marines had the opportunity to be baptized by the embarked chaplains in the Jordan River. The river is the said to be the site of the baptism of Jesus.
“It was important to me to be baptized in the same area Jesus practiced and taught the gospel I follow today,” said Quartermaster 2nd Class Sausha Brinkley. “This was a great chance few Sailors have in their lifetime, and I appreciate Israel’s commitment for all religions to freely worship in Jerusalem.”
While it is not uncommon for U.S. Navy ships to conduct port visits in Israel, many ships are not afforded the opportunity to visit the country during their deployments.
“The crew of the America has performed admirably these last few months and we were grateful they had the chance to see the country of Israel,” said Capt. Rome Ruiz, commander of the America Amphibious Ready Group. “The hospitality of the Israeli people gave us an opportunity to unwind from the demanding requirements of deployment and to help us refocus for the mission ahead.”
During its time in Eilat, the ship also hosted several tours onboard for various groups including local police officers, Israeli Defense Force, Israeli Naval Force and high school students.
Previous visits to Israel by U.S. naval vessels this year included the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) and USS Ross (DDG 71), the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19).
The America ARG, under the tactical control of Amphibious Squadron 3, consists of America, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) and the Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52). In addition to the 15th MEU, the America ARG is operating with the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 1 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
America is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in the region.
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