Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig has announced the decision to name the third amphibious transport dock ship of the San Antonio class, "Mesa Verde" (LPD 19).

The ship is named in recognition of the Mesa Verde National Park in Southwestern Colorado. Congress established Mesa Verde, meaning "green table" in Spanish, as the first cultural park in the National Park System in 1906 to preserve the notable cliff dwellings of the Anasazi (Pueblo) culture. The park received greater recognition in 1978 when it was designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by the United Nations.

Occupying part of a large sandstone plateau rising above the Montezuma and Mancos valleys, Mesa Verde National Park is 81 square miles, consisting of 52,122 acres and rising more than 8,500 feet above sea level. Mesa Verde National Park serves as a spectacular reminder of the 13 centuries-old Anasazi (Pueblo) culture by preserving hundreds of dwellings and artifacts.

"Mesa Verde is a jewel of our National Park system that celebrates the extraordinary beauty and diversity of that region and our nation," said Danzig. "The real richness of Mesa Verde and that of our country's naval service, however, lies in the people -- the remarkable legacy of their past and a future with great promise. The naming of the USS Mesa Verde establishes a strong and fundamental link between this nation and those who serve and truly value that bond."

Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt expressed his support.

"Congratulations to Secretary Danzig and the Department of the Navy. The Department of Interior is especially appreciative that the Navy named the third amphibious transport dock ship after Mesa Verde," said Babbitt. "Naturally, we find the name choice excellent because it honors early American culture as well as the first national park created to preserve cultural history. It seems somehow fitting to name a state-of-the-art ship with a name connoting timeless cultural values in Colorado."

The San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ships are used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies by embarked landing craft or amphibious vehicles augmented by helicopters in amphibious assault.

These versatile ships perform the mission of amphibious transports, amphibious cargo ships and the older dock landing ships (LSD) by incorporating both a flight deck and a well deck that can be ballasted and deballasted to support landing craft.

The 12 ships of this newest class are scheduled to replace the older LPD 4 class, and its increased vehicle and substantial cargo carrying capacity will make it a key element of 21st century amphibious ready groups. These ships integrate the latest in shipbuilding and warfighting technologies to support current and future Marine Corps aircraft, the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAAVs) and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) or conventional landing craft.

This highly reliable, warfare-capable ship class will be the most survivable amphibious vessel ever put to sea. The design incorporates state-of-the-art self-defense capabilities; Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I); and reduced radar cross section signature technologies. Reduced operational costs and an improved capability to incorporate technological advances over its 40-year service life are also essential design objectives.

The Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensors, which enclose the ship's radars and communications antennas, characterize the ship's distinctive profile. The ship's ability to carry LCACs and AAAVs, the shipboard wide area network with approximately 400 local area network (LAN) drops, Total Ship's Training System, integrated bridge system, engineering control system, and damage control system, all serve to ensure that Sailors and Marines are able to fully perform their expeditionary warfare missions.

The ship also incorporates the latest quality of life standards for the embarked sailors and Marines, including the sit-up berth, ship services mall, a fitness center and learning resource center/electronic classroom with the flexibility to accommodate mixed gender sailors and Marines as part of the crew and embarked troops. The design team also incorporated hundreds of suggestions and recommendations from more than 1,000 sailors and Marines in the Design for Ownership process to ensure that these ships will meet their needs throughout the first half of the 21st century.