On June 28, amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) arrived in Nassau, The Bahamas for a port visit aimed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of U.S. – The Bahamas relations and the 50th anniversary of Bahamian independence.
During the visit, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Embassy Nassau will host officials from the government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and senior members of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force with an official reception onboard Wasp to celebrate the unique bilateral ties between the two nations as well as a half-century of sovereignty.
“We recognize that our strong partnership is tremendously important for the national security of both nations,” said Lt. Gen. A. C. Roper, deputy commander, U.S. Northern Command. “We continue to collaborate closely to protect our shared interests and ensure the well-being of all our citizens.”
In the spirit of developing a connection with the local community, Wasp Sailors are scheduled to visit the Simpson Penn Centre for Boys and the Willie Mae Pratt Centre for Girls to provide mentorship, hands-on demonstrations of several Navy skillsets, and participate in extracurricular activities such as soccer, basketball and/or an obstacle course race.
“We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to visit and experience this gorgeous nation and wonderful Bahamian people during such a historic occasion,” said Capt. Nakia Cooper, Wasp’s commanding officer.
Homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, Wasp is a United States Navy multipurpose amphibious assault ship with a primary mission to support U.S. Marines in combat and to also provide disaster relief and medical support to those in need.
The lead ship of her class, she is the tenth USN vessel to bear the name since 1775, but certainly not the first of her namesake to visit The Bahamas. USS Wasp’s first trip to the white beaches and clear waters of The Bahamas was made almost two-and-a-half centuries ago by a wooden hull merchant schooner originally named Scorpion. Purchased, outfitted and commissioned in 1775, the first ever Wasp set sail in the company of USS Hornet, a merchant sloop. From Baltimore, they sailed for the Delaware Capes to join Commodore Esek Hopkins’ squadron: the first American squadron to get to sea.
The fleet made its way to The Bahamas, arriving at the Abaco Islands March 1, 1776. Wasp was one of two ships to cover the Marine units that stormed ashore and assisted in the taking of Fort Montague and Fort Nassau from Britain. Here, they took as much ammunition and weaponry as they could before Wasp returned to the states two weeks later.
Having recently taken part in Fleet Week New York 2023, Wasp now returns to The Bahamas. This time around, the primary mission is to celebrate.
In 1973, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas earned its independence from Britain after 255 years of control under the Crown. On July 10, The Bahamas will officially celebrate its 50th anniversary of governmental independence.
“The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Northern Command are hosting a reception onboard,” said Capt. Chris Purcell, Wasp executive officer. “Not only are we celebrating their independence, but we’re also celebrating the United States’ relationship with the Bahamian government. Wasp
has a special connection with The Bahamas; our presence goes back as far as the history of the United States.”
This visit is also a long-awaited reunion as the Embassy’s own Senior Defense Official Capt. Gregg Gellman served aboard Wasp over 20 years ago.
“It’s great to see the Wasp still out there building relationships with our foreign partners,” Gellman said. “Part of the joy of being ship’s crew is waking up in a new partner’s country and sharing our experiences with each other. I find that navies all over the world speak the same language, we just do it in a different accent!”
This trip is an opportunity for Wasp to grow the friendship between the United States and The Bahamas. Sailors aboard Wasp are more than excited for the opportunity to see one of the islands and experience Bahamian culture.
This port visit is the first time many Sailors will get to visit another part of the world. It is also a milestone for Wasp, marking the first time the ship is docking at a foreign port since departing from Japan in 2020.
“I’ve never been outside the country,” said Aviation Machinist Mate Airman Apprentice Alex Wells, who remarked how excited he was to be part of an organization that by trade brings its employees to all corners of the world. “I want to try their food and see what life is like there. I have no idea what I’m going to get to experience, but I can’t wait to find out.”