By Betsy Thorpe
LAGOS, Nigeria March 24, 2009, Students from Pacelli School of the Blind in Lagos Nigeria help Operations Specialist Seaman Reilly Mealer stack Operation Handclasp donations after they were given to the school during a 10-day port visit by the amphibious transport dock ship USS Nashville . The Nashville is participating in Africa Partnership Station 2009, an international initiative developed by Naval Forces Europe and Africa to work with U.S. and international partners to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.
Courtesy United States Navy
The USS NASHVILLE was commissioned at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, on February 14 1970. She was designed to transport a landing force ashore, utilizing helicopter and amphibious craft and to provide support for an extended period of time. The NASHVILLE can support up to 1479 Navy and Marine Corp officers and enlisted personnel and all the equipment required to make the landing force ready for combat upon arrival in an objective area.
The ship’s past assignments include four Caribbean Amphibious readiness Groups, Mediterranean Amphibious readiness Groups, Persian Gulf Amphibious Readiness Groups, Mine Countermeasure Task Group, NATO North Atlantic Operations, and training assignments with the Fleet Marine Force Atlantic.
On Jan. 15 2009 the USS Nashville left Naval Station Norfolk, embarking on African Partnership Station 2009. During this deployment the Nashville will make port calls in five West African countries – Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon where African Partnership Station training will include exchanges on seamanship, environmental stewardship, maritime awareness, and numerous humanitarian and civic outreach missions. This is the final deployment of the USS Nashville, the ship will decommission in September.
Serving on board the USS Nashville is Operations Specialist Seaman Reilly Mealer, a 2006 graduate of Harpeth High School. Mealer is the grandson of Marjorie Watkins of Bellevue and the son of Sandra and Randy Mealer of Pegram. His twin brother Marlin Mealer is a member of the United States Naval Reserves where he serves as a hospital corpsman. Mrs. Mealer is happy that her sons are continuing in her families tradition of Naval service. Her father Marlin Watkins was a member of the USN during World War II and her brothers Michael Watkins and Richard Watkins both served in the Navy during the Vietnam War years. Mrs. Mealer said “I am especially proud of Reilly’s participation in the humanitarian work he is doing with Operation Hand Clasp, and of the hope he helps bring the people living in Africa”.
Operation Handclasp is an official U.S. Navy program that coordinates the transportation and delivery of humanitarian, educational, and goodwill material donated by corporations, charitable organizations, and private citizens throughout the United States. The U.S. military distributes the materials to citizens in foreign countries on behalf of American citizens.
For more information on the USS Nashville and it’s final deployment visit www.navy.mil