Santee native serves aboard America

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SPECIAL FOR THE EAST COUNTY CALIFORNIAN

A 2010 graduate of Santee’s West Hills High School is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a hand-selected crew charged with bringing the Navy’s newest and most advanced amphibious assault ship into service.

SPECIAL FOR THE EAST COUNTY CALIFORNIAN

A 2010 graduate of Santee’s West Hills High School is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a hand-selected crew charged with bringing the Navy’s newest and most advanced amphibious assault ship into service.

Hospitalman Nicole Gora-Senghor from Santee is serving aboard the amphibious assault ship America, currently home ported in San Diego. When construction and sea trials are complete and the Navy officially accepts the ship from the builder, the ship will be placed into commission and will become USS America.

Gora-Senghor and the rest of the 900-person crew are slowly bringing the ship to life, overseeing construction, testing new equipment, training on new systems and executing trials at sea. The crew will eventually grow to more than 1,200 Sailors and nearly 1,900 embarked Marines when the ship is at sea. When complete, USS America will be 844 feet long and 106 feet wide and will weigh nearly 45,000 tons. Twin gas turbine engines will push the ship through the water at more than 22 knots.

As one of the Sailors who will commission the ship, Gora-Senghor is getting a firsthand look at the improvements the Navy has incorporated into the design of the ship—a more fuel-efficient gas turbine propulsion plant, increased capacity for aviation operations, advanced weapons systems, and sophisticated electronics and communications suites.

As the crew grows and works toward the end goal of joining the fleet in late 2014, Gora-Senghor and other America sailors know they are building a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

Gora-Senghor said it is an exciting time to be in the Navy and helping build a crew and a ship from scratch, which was something she never expected to be doing just a couple years ago. The 21-year-old sailor realizes the significance of not only being selected to be part of a commissioning crew, but helping commission a ship named after his country.

“I was very excited when I got the orders here,” she said. “I had no idea what to expect, but it’s really challenged me and helped me to grow as a person. It’s made me love the Navy.”

Gora-Senghor has been in the Navy for just three years and is happy she decided to serve her country.

“I joined the Navy to serve my country and get away,” said Gora-Senghor. “I got these orders and they brought me home. It’s made me have a better understanding of where I came from.”

As the commanding officer of future USS America, Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr. wants to recognize sailors who are setting the resilient foundation for the newest amphibious warship.

“As the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name ‘America’, we have the opportunity to build this command with the ideals of our namesake,” said Hall. “America’s Sailors and Marines demonstrate the Navy’s core values everyday through their training and initiative, and I am proud to have a crew of this caliber.”

The America class of amphibious assault ships replaces the aging Tarawa class. Its design enables it to carry a larger and more diverse complement of aircraft, including the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey, the new Joint Strike Fighter, and a mix of cargo and assault helicopters. America will be able to support a wide spectrum of military operations and missions, including putting Marines ashore for combat operations, launching air strikes, keeping sea lanes free and open for the movement of global commerce, and delivering humanitarian aid following a disaster like the typhoon that devastated the Philippines in 2013.

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