A two-year effort to bring more warships to Northeast Florida comes to fruition this weekend as the final two-thirds of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Readiness Group will arrive in Mayport on Sunday.
News4Jax will give a sailor's perspective from Thursday until the ships arrive.
The USS Fort McHenry and USS Iwo Jima will join the USS New York, which arrived in Mayport in December.
News4Jax anchor Kent Justice will be aboard the USS Iwo Jima as it sails down the Atlantic Coast from Norfolk, Virginia.
The sailors of the USS Iwo Jima prepared for departure Thursday morning.
Food service officer Michael Carter is very excited to be going back to Jacksonville, where he spent 20 of his 24 years in the military. He pretty much has the most important job on the ship -- to all the sailors, at least.
“We live by the motto 'We feed folks,' so we produce a lot of chow,” Carter said. “Probably have an annual budget of about a million dollars worth of food. ... We enjoy feeding the crew.”
That crew, when fully loaded, includes a thousand sailors and another 1,600 Marines.
“Getting those two services together to fulfill our missions as amphibious ops, it's pretty cool,” Carter said.
Carter said the prep work Thursday makes for a better meal -- and smiles -- as the men and women relocate to Mayport.
“We're actually getting some stores, just getting underway for 10 days,” Carter said. “We're going to top off so we can have some fresh fruits and vegetables before we pull into Mayport. … We're really looking forward to it.”
About a hundred sailors assigned to the USS Iwo Jima are returning to their native state of Florida in the move, which brings a thousand military families to Jacksonville.
According to a Naval Station Mayport release, the homeport change for the ARG will ensure the preservation of the ship repair industrial base in Mayport, which is one of the largest naval bases in the United States.