Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AS) Marquis Station, from Dothan, Ala., is serving aboard the amphibious assault ship America. Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AS) Marquis Station, from Dothan, Ala., is serving aboard the amphibious assault ship America in Pascagoula, Miss. America, the first ship of its class, recently completed construction and was turned over to the Navy and her crew. America Sailors marched to the ship from the entrance to Huntington-Ingalls shipyard and took possession of the ship on April 10. After the ship is certified and sea trials are complete, the ship will be placed into commission as USS America and will be homeported in San Diego.
Station and the rest of the 1,000-person crew are slowly bringing the ship to life, overseeing construction, testing new equipment, training on new systems and testing the ship at sea. The crew will eventually grow to more than 1,100 Sailors and nearly 1,900 embarked Marines when the ship is at sea. America is 844 feet long, 106 feet wide and weighs nearly 45,000 tons. The ship has twin gas-turbine engines that push the ship through the water at more than 22 knots.
As one of the Sailors who will commission the ship, Station is getting a firsthand look at the improvements the Navy has incorporated into the design of the ship: a more fuel-efficient gas turbine propulsion plant, increased capacity for aviation operations, advanced weapons systems, and sophisticated electronics and communications suites.
America Sailors know they are building a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes. Station said it is an exciting time to be in the Navy and helping to build a crew and a ship from scratch is something he never expected to be doing just a couple years ago.
The 20-year-old Sailor said he realizes the historical value of what it means to not only be selected to be part of a commissioning crew but to help commission a ship named after his country.
"It's really exciting to be part of a ship that's named after our country," said Station. "The important thing about being a part of the original crew as a plankowner is that we are building the ship from the ground up, and when you step back and look at it, it's a pretty amazing thing to commission a ship. Being a part of the original crew is a lot of hard work, but it's really satisfying to know that we have been able to come together individually and as a team to make this happen."
Station said he is happy to be a part of the America commissioning crew and is thankful for the chance to do something he loves. Station works in Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department's IM-4 division that consists of more than 25 aviation support equipment technicians.
"I like working hard and getting my hands dirty," he said. "This job is challenging and a lot of fun. I enjoy working in aviation, and I like working on cars. This job is a bit of both. We repair tow tractors, tow bars, spotting dolly and all the rest of the support equipment we need to conduct aviation maintenance."
Although Station is an AS, he is temporarily assigned to America's Supply Department and was recently selected as the ship's food service attendant (FSA) of the month for his hard work and dedication to excellence.
It's really humbling to be selected as FSA of the month," he said. "There is a standard of excellence for our mess decks, and to be selected amongst my peers means a lot. There are more than 40 FSAs working down there as a team, and many of them could have been selected."
In addition to being excited about an opportunity to help commission the America, Station is also excited for his future in the Navy.
"I'm hoping to make the Navy a career," he said. "I would really like to become an officer in the years to come. I believe that I would make a good candidate. Obviously, I have a lot to learn, but I would like to earn the opportunity to lead Sailors at the officer level."
Station's supervisor said he believes Station is an outstanding Sailor who will do many great things going forward.
"Since the day Airman Station came to work for me, he has done an outstanding job," said Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Sean Broadhurst, food service attendant supervisor. "He always has his nose to the grindstone and is just really, a humble, hard-working guy. He always has a positive attitude, and you really can't ask for a better Sailor."
As the commanding officer of future USS America, Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., wants to recognize Sailors who are setting the resilient foundation for the nation's newest amphibious warship.
"As the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name 'America', we have the opportunity to build this command with the ideals of our namesake," said Hall. "America's Sailors and Marines demonstrate the Navy's core values everyday through their training and initiative, and I am proud to have a crew of this caliber."
The America class of amphibious assault ships replaces the aging Tarawa class. Its design enables it to carry a larger and more diverse complement of aircraft, including the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey, the new Joint Strike Fighter, and a mix of cargo and assault helicopters. America will be able to support a wide spectrum of military operations and missions, including putting Marines ashore for combat operations, launching air strikes, keeping sea lanes free and open for the movement of global commerce, and delivering humanitarian aid following a disaster like the typhoon that devastated the Philippines in 2013.
PCU America (LHA-6), the fourth American warship to be named for the United States of America, and will be the first of the America-class amphibious assault ships for the U.S. Navy. She replaces USS Peleliu (LHA-5) of the Tarawa class to act as the flagship of an expeditionary strike group or amphibious ready group, carrying part of a Marine expeditionary unit into battle and putting them ashore with helicopters and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, supported by F-35B Lightning II aircraft and helicopter gunships.