USS PONCE is the 12th and last ship in the AUSTIN - class of Amphibious Transport Docks. The contract to build the Ponce was awarded on May 17, 1965, the keel was laid on October 31, 1966 and she was launched on May 20, 1970. She was delivered to the Navy by Lockheed on June 25, 1971 and she was commissioned on July 10, 1971.

More than 1,100 Atlantic Fleet Sailors and Marines left Norfolk on June 10, 1996 aboard USS Ponce (LPD 15) to support security operations off the coast of Liberia. The landing platform dock ship compliment included a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) from Marine Corps bases in North Carolina. The SPMAGTF, more than 700 combat-ready Marines, could conduct special operations, rescue downed pilots and enhance security at facilities ashore. Once on station, Ponce supported security needs of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. It relieved USS Guam (LPH 9), USS Portland (LSD 37) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

USS Ponce (LPD 15) returned to Norfolk August 24, 1996 after a two-and-a-half month mission of providing security and other assistance to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. Deploying with only 10 days notice, Ponce carried a crew of more than 300 Sailors and 700 Marines from Special Purpose Marine-Air-Ground Task Force 8, from Camp Lejuene, N.C. This was not the first time Ponce deployed to Liberian waters. In 1990, Ponce responded to "Operation Sharp Edge," guarding American interest and supporting troops assigned to the area at the time.
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By: kjfitz
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