By Lt. Ed Early, USS Freedom Public Affairs
CARTAGENA, Colombia (NNS) – The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) wrapped up its first theater security cooperation (TSC) port visit in Cartagena on March 23.
"We appreciate the hospitality and camaraderie of the Colombian people and our partners in the Colombian Navy," said Cmdr. Randy Garner, Freedom's commanding officer. "It was a privilege to visit Cartagena and to show Freedom to our Colombian friends. Cartagena is a beautiful city, and we enjoyed visiting."
While in Cartagena, Freedom's Sailors donated their time and energy during a community relations (COMREL) project in the Villa Gloria region of Cartagena on March 20. Freedom crew members and Colombian Sailors and Marines helped paint Instituto Skinner, an elementary school, and presented two pallets of medical and hygiene materials donated by Project Handclasp.
"The volunteers really enjoyed helping the local community," said Mineman 1st Class (SW) Jeffrey Steele, Freedom's COMREL coordinator. "The camaraderie between the schoolchildren, Freedom Sailors and the local Colombian Navy was a good bonding experience for all involved."
Freedom also received a number of distinguished visitors in Cartagena, including the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, and Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva. Both toured the ship March 20, as did Adm. Guillermo Barrera, Commander, Naval Forces Colombia.
Freedom will make further TSC port visits in Panama and Mexico before concluding its deployment in its eventual homeport of San Diego.
Currently, Freedom on its initial deployment to the Caribbean Sea and the coasts of Central and South America under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO)/U.S. 4th Fleet.
During the first part of its deployment, Freedom conducted CIT operations in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S), U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and U.S. Coast Guard District Seven.
The first ship of the revolutionary LCS program, Freedom is a fast, agile, mission-focused ship that demonstrates the latest in naval technology.
Embarked aboard Freedom are Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 2, based in Norfolk, Va.; the first tailored LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package (SUW MP), based in San Diego; and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET).
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.