Sailors from littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) completed final certifications for the ship's inaugural deployment while underway participating in Task Group Exercise (TGEX) Oct. 23-31.
Fort Worth Crews 103 and 104, along with guided-missile destroyers USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) and USS Milius (DDG 69), used TGEX as their final opportunity to certify prior to deployment.
"This means that our long preparations have finally come to a completion," said Cmdr. Kendall Bridgewater, LCS Crew 104s commanding officer. "Through our LCS training facility work ups, coming on-hull and finally putting it all together integrating LCS into a strike group environment, we've shown a lot of the unique capabilities that an LCS can bring to the table."
The crew began with unit-level preparation by doing simulator-based training to prepare for different warfare areas. Once the crew boarded Fort Worth they continued with more advanced training and attaining basic crew qualifications.
All of this training culminated with final certification during TGEX when the crew was put to the test with scenarios based off of situations the crew could face while deployed.
According to Lt. Michael Chestnut, LCS Crew 104 operations officer, it was no small feat getting to this point.
"We have all the same requirements that a traditional ship in the Navy has, we just happen to have a fraction of the people," said Chestnut. "People are asked to multitask and responsibilities usually reserved for senior ranks are pushed down to the lower levels. Add in the fact that we did all of this in a compressed amount of time, and what we did is quite impressive."
Bridgewater agreed, complimenting the crew's performance.
"The crew's been phenomenal the whole time," said Bridgewater. "The luxury of LCSs is that the crew is made up of very senior people who are very skilled at their jobs and don't require a lot of instruction in order to get tasks done."
Bridgewater went on to speak about what the upcoming deployment means for the LCS program as a whole.
"This deployment, it's important we show that an LCS can be an added asset in theater," said Bridgewater. "We have to be able to perform a majority of missions of a destroyer and frigate and more. I think that we'll show a lot of people how valuable we can be."
Building on the achievements of USS Freedom's (LCS 1) inaugural 10-month deployment to Southeast Asia from March to December 2013, Fort Worth is scheduled to deploy in November. It will visit more ports, engage more regional navies during exercises like Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training and expand LCS capabilities including the MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are shallow-draft ships designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare.
LCS ships are manned with rotational crews, similar to those found on Trident submarines, and is augmented by mission package crews for specific mission focused operations.
Fort Worth is the second ship of the Freedom variant for LCS, and is a semi-planing steel monohull with an aluminum superstructure. The ship can reach speeds in excess of 40 knots.