USNS Lewis B. Puller deploys from Naval Station Norfolk

The USNS Lewis B. Puller at Naval Station Norfolk ahead of its first deployment on July 10, 2017. Credit: WAVY/Marielena Balouris.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The first-of-its-kind USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) deployed Monday after finishing initial operational testing and evaluation at Naval Station Norfolk.

“We call it ‘Team Puller,'” said Commander Arlen Rose, who is in the charge of the military operations on the Puller.

The Puller is deploying to the U.S. 5th Fleet to support multiple missions, including air mine counter measures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations and humanitarian aid. The ship is on a permanent deployment, which means all maintenance and crew changes will take place while she is at sea.

“That saves a tremendous amount of time,” said Civilian Captain George McCarthy.

Navy officials say the Puller is the first purpose-built expeditionary sea base. The ship has a hybrid-manned crew with a combination of military personnel and civilian mariners.

Captain McCarthy says the civilian mariners will primarily focus on the operations of the ship.

“They bring skill sets to the table which allows the Navy to focus more on the mission,” McCarthy said.

The 784 foot long vessel features a 52,000 square foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines and mission-planning spaces.

“Puller is a multi-mission platform designed to launch and recover helicopters, launch and recover small boats, and act as a float support base in theater,” said Commander Rose.

Named after Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller — one of the most decorated members of the Marine Corps — the USNS Puller is able to accommodate 250 personnel.

“It’s brand new, we’re still learning as we go. We’re going to take her out there,” said Commander Rose. “Everybody is excited to get her out into the fleet, to take her rightful place and we can see what she can do.”