USS Ponce, which had been slated for decommissioning in March 2012, has arrived in Bahrain to act as an interim Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB-I). Formerly designated as an amphibious transport dock (LPD), the 41-year-old ship has been converted to provide workshop and repair facilities in support of mine countermeasures operations and other missions and also serve as a floating base for helicopters, coastal patrol ships and special forces. She also has the capability to embark and launch small riverine craft.
The newly reclassified AFSB will be manned by a ‘hybrid’ crew comprising 150 Military Sealift Command civilian mariners and 55 US Navy sailors, all under the command of a US Navy Captain. The ship is the navy’s first ever dedicated afloat forward staging base and will remain at her current location and in her current role until a more permanent solution can be found.