Mayport January 30, 2010 - USS Freedom (LCS 1), the Navy's first littoral combat ship (LCS), arrived at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Jan. 26 to begin final preparations for her maiden deployment.
While in Mayport, Freedom will undergo final counterillicit trafficking and airborne use of force training and certification in preparation for expected missions in the U.S. Southern Command/Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
Readying for this deployment was a unique process for Freedom's Sailors. Starting in November 2009, Freedom engaged in independent training and certification exercises off the Virginia and Florida coasts, including maritime security surge training for both the Blue and Gold Crews.
After completing a Continuous Maintenance Availability at Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., in mid-January 2010, Freedom got underway again for sea trials to verify the integration of the Surface Warfare Mission Package and aviation detachment with the core crew. Upon completion of a successful set of trials and onload of deployment ammunition, Freedom sailed south to Mayport to complete the final certification process and prepare for the mid-February 2010 deployment.
"This deployment comes a full two years ahead of schedule," said Cmdr. Randy Garner, commanding officer of Freedom's Gold Crew. "We are ready and eager to get to sea, head south and show what Freedom and her crew are capable of doing."
Freedom's deployment will be the first for the revolutionary LCS program, whose ships are designed to handle mission sets that do not require the full breadth and depth of capabilities of a traditional surface combatant.
Instead of the wide spectrum of combat capability inherent to those platforms, an LCS will embark tailored mission packages (surface warfare, mine countermeasure, anti-submarine warfare or maritime security) and an aviation detachment to fulfill a specific mission set. These tailored packages allow the LCS to fulfill several niche missions with a much smaller crew and at less cost than larger surface combatants.
Additionally, the shallower draft of the LCS allows it to operate in many areas where larger, deeper-draft combatants cannot venture.
The Sailors of Freedom's Gold Crew, some of whom served aboard the ship before her commissioning, are eagerly anticipating her first operational deployment.
"Absolutely – everyone's looking forward to this deployment," said Command Master Chief Anthony Decker, who will be embarking on his last shipboard deployment. "This is what these men and women get paid to do – not testing, not trials, but actually doing real-world missions."
Freedom's deployment will conclude later this spring when she arrives in her new homeport of San Diego.