July 13 (UPI) -- The USNS Lewis B. Puller has deployed from Val Air Station Norfolk, marking the first operational cruise of the expeditionary sea base as it joins its supporting role in the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
The Puller is part of the U.S. Navy's Sealift Command and has a joint U.S. Navy and civilian crew.
"The Puller is a brand new ship, so we had a lot to learn. The military crew has been training with the ship's civil service mariners for a year to prepare for this deployment," military detachments officer-in-charge Cmdr. Arlen Rose said in a press release.
"We are ready to get Puller out there to takes its rightful place in the fleet. Everyone is really excited to get to work and see what the Puller can do."
The Puller is the first purpose-built expeditionary sea base of its kind. It is 784 feet long and has a 52,000 square-foot flight deck. It serves as a logistical hub for other ships with fuel and ammunition storage and repair facilities.
Its helicopter facilities and storage capacity make it ideal for humanitarian and disaster relief support alongside conventional military operations.
The Puller will be permanently stationed overseas to allow continuous suport for other deployed ships. Crew rotations would take place in theater.
The ship draws its name from Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller, a commander in World War II and Korea, and the only Marine to win 5 Navy crosses.