The Navy just redesignated a civilian support ship as a warship in case it needs to carry out military operations under the laws of armed conflict while in theater — a decision that will allow for flexibility in emergency situations.
The USNS Lewis B. Puller is making the transition to the USS Lewis B. Puller on Aug. 17 in Bahrain, the Navy announced on Wednesday. It's only fitting that the ship chosen is named for the cantankerous, most decorated Marine in American history, best known as Chesty Puller.
“The name Gen. Lewis ‘Chesty’ B. Puller is synonymous with heroism and service,” Richard Spencer, secretary of the Navy, said in a Defense Department release.“His example lives not just in every Marine but in every service member who faithfully serves our nation.”
The ship will be used as an afloat staging base for military operations to be carried out by the 5th Fleet. Redesignating the Puller as a commissioned warship will increase the vessel’s flexibility and the ability to provide critical support to the Navy's missions.
"As the security environment has become faster paced, more complex and increasingly competitive, the Navy has a growing need to station more diverse and capable warships around the globe," Navy spokesperson Lt. Lauren Chatmas told NBC News.
Currently, the ship is staffed by a mixture of active-duty sailors and civilians, who will now be commanded by Navy Capt. Adan G. Cruz, and the civilians will take direction from Capt. Jonathon Olmsted.
Puller is “an afloat forward staging base-variant of the mobile landing platform designed to provide dedicated support for air mine countermeasures and special warfare missions,” according to Military Sealift Command. “The ship is capable of executing additional missions including counter-piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian and disaster relief.”
Now that the ship will be under the purview of U.S. Central Command for five years, the redesignation is something of a precaution.
“Redesignating USNS Lewis B. Puller as a commissioned warship will allow the Navy greater operational flexibility,” Chatmas added.