Pascagoula, Mississippi - The future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) departed in commission without ceremony from Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, July 11 in transit to its homeport of San Diego.

America is scheduled to be formally commissioned during a ceremony in San Francisco, California Oct. 11, witnessed by the friends and family of the ship's 1,100 plankowners. The Navy officially accepted delivery of the ship from Ingalls Shipbuilding during a ship custody transfer ceremony, April 10.

America earned commission status after the crew successfully completed the light-off assessment, anti-terrorism force protection certification and crew certification. These are the three major inspections needed before a U.S. Navy warship can get underway for the first time.

"This is the beginning, but we have a long way to go," said Capt. Robert A. Hall Jr., America's commanding officer, to his crew during an all hands call. "You guys make the foundation. What we do from this point forward will dictate the kind of ship America's going to be, and I'm excited to get out there and introduce her to the fleet."

America is scheduled to transit U.S. Southern Command's area of responsibility (AOR) throughout the next couple months. During the transit, referred to as "America Visits the Americas," the ship will engage in cooperative maritime security operations with partner nations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security in the AOR. In addition, America will embark more than 300 Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) South.

The ship will visit Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Peru as well as Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while also conducting engagements with other valued partners in the AOR. These nations are valued friends and partners and the visits to these ports will enhance these partnerships. During these port visits, the ship's military and civilian crew may have the opportunity to experience the rich culture of their host nation and to serve as goodwill ambassadors. Additionally many of America's Sailors and Marines will have the chance to volunteer for enhancement projects at local schools, orphanages, and other facilities.

America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tawara-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious ship, America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. Marine Forces South support U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.