Story by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Clark, AFN-Pacific Hawaii News Bureau
HONOLULU - The U.S. Navy’s first littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) pulled into Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, Monday, March 11, for the first port visit on her maiden deployment. USS Freedom departed her home port of San Diego, Calif., March 1, to the Asia-Pacific region.
“Getting this ship out on this deployment is just important … it lines up well with my priorities,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. “This business of having critical combat capability forward – forward, where we can respond in a shorter period of time given the vastness of my area of operations and also to work hand-in-hand with our allies, partners and friends in the Western Pacific.”
Freedom’s eight-month deployment to Southeast Asia and Singapore regions is one of the first of many up-coming deployments for the new littoral combat-class platform. This keeps a 2011 promise made by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to our allies in those regions during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where it will conduct maritime security operations with regional partners and allies.
While it is Freedom’s maiden deployment, according to the leader of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, being first is just the beginning.
“This deployment is more than a maiden deployment,” Haney pointed out. “It is an operational deployment where she will join the efforts of the rest of the ships I have out in the Western Pacific. This deployment will also capstone looking at the operational concepts: minimal manning, maintenance and this business of rotational presence for this class of ship, quite a distance away from the continental United States.”
During the first-ever LCS deployment, Freedom will demonstrate her operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. Fast, agile, and mission-focused, LCS platforms are designed to employ modular mission packages that can be configured for three separate purposes: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare. Freedom will be initially manned by her "Gold" crew of 91 sailors to include mission package personnel and an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60 helicopter.
USS Freedom commanding officer Cmdr. Timothy Wilke explained the uniqueness of his ship a little bit further: “This vessel is designed to operate in the littorals, closer to land, what we commonly refer to as ‘brown water.' It does have the capability to operate in the blue water, but it’s mainly focused to bridge the gap, between the littoral combat ship and the other classes, it can get into the areas, our blue water Navy necessarily can’t access, not only for operations, but to engage with regional as well.”
Aside from the Freedom’s arrival in Hawaii being important to Adm. Haney, he also knew it wasn’t possible without the captain and crew.
“I can’t say enough about the captain and the crew of this ship and the wonderful work they have done to get the ship where it is today.”