“There are a lot of cogs that have to turn to make everything work with the reserve side of things which can be trying at times,” said Dubose who has been drilling with the Navy Reserve for seven years. “The program has been a great experience overall.”
Unlike many Navy Reserve units that can limit the way a reservist can serve, Dubose said the LCS program puts the individual on board the ship and directly involved in the mission.
“Working with the ship’s crew was an amazing experience,” said Dubose. “From the first day on board I was treated like I had been on the crew since day one. Several of my junior Sailors were underway on Independence for two or three months and had the same experiences.”
Hundreds of hours of classroom training, in addition to hands-on training, are required to complete the T2Q program.
“We were originally told this would take reservists approximately three plus years to complete, but some of us will be complete in half that time,” said Chief Mineman Kevin S. Landers who has served in the Navy Reserve for 10 years. “I spend most of time coordinating the training requirements for the Sailors in my unit, making sure we have the same qualifications as the active duty.”
The T2Q program for an active duty Sailor assigned to the LCS program typically takes between 7-12 months to complete.
Landers said the Navy Reserve LCS program really focuses on the integration of active duty and Navy Reserve Sailors.
“We have a great working relationship with the active duty detachments,” said Landers. “So much so, that they ask for our Sailors by name when requesting support.”
This positive working relationship is not just present on board the ships, but can be seen throughout the training pipeline.
“When I go to the school house I recognize a lot of the instructors that I served with side-by-side, and that’s the same for my shipmates aboard ship,” said Mineman 1st Class (EXW/SW) Albert Payton, who spent four years on active duty before joining the Navy Reserve. “Having that open doorway allows me to assist my peers in the unit to archive better training and feel comfortable aboard ship.”
Payton said that he has been in the T2Q pipeline since March, taking classes at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego where the Navy’s Mine Warfare Training Center is located, and uses the opportunity to talk to other Navy Reserve minemen about the LCS program.
“I make it a point to visit other Navy Reservists and talk to them about the LCS program and how it is high tempo,” said Payton, who served in deck, combat and weapons divisions aboard minesweepers while on active duty. “You’re able to get a lot of active duty time and really get your hands dirty with the RMMV [remote multi-mission vehicle], organic mission planning, watchstanding and qualifications.”
In addition to getting experience, there is also another major advantage to the Navy Reserve LCS program.
“I have never seen another unit in the Navy Reserve where you are able to obtain your ESWS [enlisted surface warfare specialist] pin,” said Payton. “This program allows you to do so, and it’s because of the collaboration with our active duty counterparts.”
In a time when the Navy’s budget is under scrutiny, the use of Navy Reservists to augment both the LCS mission and maintenance programs helps reduce the cost of contract maintenance while also providing increased operational capabilities.
More than 400 Navy Reservists across the country are currently assigned to LCS support units and are divided between sea frame support and mission module support units. Sea frame units concentrate on augmenting the ship’s maintenance program while the mission module units support surface warfare and mine warfare in addition to anti-terrorism force protection (ATFP) and mission module maintenance.
As the Navy’s fleet of littoral combat ships increases, there will also be a need for more Navy Reserve units and more Navy Reservists to support both the maintenance and mission module programs.
“The LCS program is new and still in development which provides motivated Sailors, Active and Reserve, the opportunity to be a pathfinder,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Husband, the commanding officer of LCS MCM Mayport. “I've found that LCS Sailors are taking the opportunity to be a team player while also being self-resilient, and are extremely excited to shape the future of the Navy by being part of the program.”
Husband said the “train to qualify” process ensures that Sailors are ready for deployment certification prior to embarking on the LCS by leveraging state of the art shore based training facilities and detailed pipelines.
“From everything I have seen, the LCS active duty crews have come to appreciate how reliable, motivated, and willing Reservists are to provide meaningful support; whether it be inport maintenance, inport ATFP support, or underway mission module support,” said Husband.