The amphibious transport dock Mesa Verde left its Naval Station Norfolk pier at 9:05 Wednesday morning as the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group began deploying to the Med and the Libya crisis.
As it pulled away, its wake gently lapped up against the starboard-side hull of San Antonio, moored at the next pier over, in what amounted to a love tap. Mesa Verde’s crew might have preferred delivering more of a kick in the rear. The third ship in the class, Mesa Verde had been home only eight months since its last overseas deployment, and it wasn’t supposed to deploy until late 2012. Instead, it was going to sea more than a year earlier than planned in the place of San Antonio — the class’s lead ship. Commissioned in 2006 and plagued by structural and systemic issues during its maiden and only deployment in 2008-2009, it is still getting undergoing repairs.
But there’s light on the horizon. According to the ship’s executive officer, Cmdr. Neil Koprowski, San Antonio is rounding into shape and on April 25 will go to sea for three weeks of intensive sea trials. Koprowski said it’ll be a “full assessment — soup to nuts” — with high visibility. One visitor, he said, will be Adm. John Harvey, commander of Fleet Forces Command, who made the call to hold San Antonio back.
If the ship passes muster, it’ll begin a 20-week basic training phase in preparation for getting back into the fleet’s rotation. Then, in October, another test: a visit from the famously tough Board of Inspection and Survey.
Koprowski, nine months into the job, is optimistic. “We’re excited about getting back out there and showing the world … we’re gonna do good things,” he said.