NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. --- After years of planning and preparation, a complete Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) is stationed at Mayport. The USS Iwo Jima and USS Fort McHenry joined the USS New York at Mayport Sunday to complete the group.
"Today marks a new chapter in the history of the Iwo Jima, the Fort McHenry, the New York, and Naval Station Mayport," said Wes McCall, Commanding Officer of the base.
Ships in the ARG can move military and machines across the world. They also aid in humanitarian missions, and a list of other tasks. McCall says the additions are a big step forward for Mayport.
"These three ships are a fantastic addition to our basin," he said.
The Iwo Jima's Captain, Jim McGovern, says the addition also helps making sure the right ships are where they need to be.
"Strategically, what it does it is places an ARG 2 days closer to action should be there something that goes on," he said.
The 2 ships that arrived Sunday bring more than 1,000 sailors, and their families to the First Coast. For some, it's a long overdue homecoming, while for others, it's the first time stepping foot in the city.
"All my instructors always said they tried most of their careers to get to Mayport, so it seems like a very exclusive place to get to," said Christopher Starmer, a sailor on board the USS Iwo Jima.
That ship will stay home for several weeks before being deployed. The ship's Executive Officer, Captain Dana Gordon, has spent time, on and off, at Mayport over the past two decades.
"For us it's like a second home, so once the announcement was made - I was probably the biggest advocate of going down there," he said.