USS Ponce Tour Wows Space Coast

Even though Patrick Air Force Base and Kennedy Space Center sit in our backyard, these two government installations didn’t dampen the excitement of the crowd nor myself as we waited to board the Navy’s USS Ponce yesterday afternoon in Port Canaveral, FL. 
Bow of the USS Ponce
 

In town for this weekend’s Cocoa Beach Air Show, the USS Ponce is on a three-stop decommission tour and offering free tours of the ship to the general public. 

Flight deck
 

 Since I’ve never been on a military ship of this magnitude and so soon after a recent mission off the coast of Africa protecting merchant ships from Somalian pirates, I was so excited  that I jumped at the chance to tour the ship on the first day!

Group guide Crewman Desoto
 

 Glad I did since there were tons of people who were equally excited because a line awaited me on my arrival. But that was okay since this was a once in a life chance to see a fully manned  Austin-class amphibious transport dock that has served in every single war in the Middle East. 

Air traffic control tower

After being quartered off into groups of 20, we were guided by crewman Desoto who took us on a pretty extensive tour of the USS Ponce from stern to bow in that order!  The first part of the tour began with a briefing in the cramped dining hall where we learned the history of the ship, its main function, how many servicemen staff the ship (300 currently, but can hold up to 1,000) and its future.

Onboard air hanger for repairing planes or helicopters

After leaving the dining hall, we were then taken out to the flight deck. Although not very long, about the size of a basketball court, the space can supposedly hold six aircraft at a time.  And yes they can even take off from the ship since the majority of the planes they transport are VTOL aircraft, meaning they take-off and land vertically. 

Communications Tower

Our tour then wound up to the upper decks where we were given a drill on firing one of the high-powered guns, followed by a tour of the pilot room and even below to a former sleeping quarter containing the “racks”. I wouldn’t even wish those beds on my worst enemy.  But the best part of the tour was going below to the well deck where we were able to see where some of the Marine’s tanks and other amphibious equipment.

Seeing the equipment and the guys in fatigues, it really brought to home the reality of what’s it like being in the military: perilous and rewarding.  I say this because the ship was absolutely spotless, and you could tell the crew was proud of what they did. And I’m proud and grateful for their service! 

The USS Ponce will be in Port Canaveral until Sunday.   Tours continue today through Saturday and their free to the public. If you miss touring the boat you’ll be sorry its definitely an one-of-a-kind exprience.

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2 thoughts on “USS Ponce Tour Wows Space Coast

  1. Good morning! I am Petty Officer Nathanael Miller, Public Affairs Officer aboard the USS Ponce. I would like to express our gratitude for the overwhelming welcome we have received and the unbelievable enthusiasm your local citizens showed for our visit and the chance to see our ship. This kind of of excitement makes the long days we spend at sea away from home a bit easier, and we are very, very grateful!

  2. No, thank you! Everyone was abuzz about the ship coming. Touring the ship made it really come into focus the magnitude of your job while serving our country. Its perilous and sometimes under appreciated. So thank you to you and all that serve!

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