Sailors and Marines aboard USS America
Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America prepare to render honors to the USS Missouri Memorial while manning the rails as the ship departs Pearl Harbor. Navy photo

The America Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, after a scheduled port visit on Wednesday and Thursday

The amphibious task force consists of the amphibious assault ship USS America, the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego, and the amphibious dock-landing ship USS Pearl Harbor . They are currently heading across the Pacific toward San Diego after wrapping up a 7-month deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Horn of Africa and Mediterranean.

“I remember prepping for our first exercise in Hawaii, and now we are back, but we have all grown so much since the beginning of deployment,” said Cpl. Cody Morton, a light-armored vehicle technician aboard San Diego. “This is an exciting stop because we are so close to home.”

While in Hawaii, the Sailors and Marines had an opportunity to see some of the island of Oahu, conduct scheduled maintenance, and on-load food and supplies. For many of the Sailors and Marines this was their first time visiting the island of Oahu.

“I’m glad we had the chance to experience Hawaii,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Dakota Harris, assigned to the San Diego. “We all had a great time going to the beach and eating some authentic Hawaiian food.”

The crews were also greeted by family and friends in Hawaii who will ride the ships as “tigers” during the transit to their homeport of Naval Base San Diego.

“I’m looking forward to my kids coming aboard the ship since they have never been underway before,” said Lt. Cmdr. Elise Brandon, assigned to Fleet Surgical Team 1 aboard America. “We haven’t seen each other in seven months, and I can’t wait for us to spend the tiger cruise together.”

Tigers aboard the ships will participate in a number of events that cover the spectrum of the group’s operations and daily functions. From damage control and flight-ops demonstrations to movie nights and ice cream socials, the tigers will get a glimpse of what it is to be a Sailor or Marine underway.

“At the end of it all, the tigers will have an opportunity to earn a special qualification for having completed the cruise with us,” said Chief Navy Counselor Eric Torra, America’s tiger cruise coordinator. “This is a great experience to be a part of because it brings us and our loved ones just a little bit closer by having them see where we live and work while away for all of those months, and hopefully gives them a whole new appreciation for the military.”

More than 1,800 Sailors and 2,600 Marines are aboard the three ships.