3/1/2015
LCS Mission Readiness
Reserve Sailors Play a Pivotal Role

The littoral combat ship (LCS) is one of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced and capable tools of sea power projection, distributed lethality, security, and stability in waters around the world. A fast, agile, and focused mission platform, it is designed for operation in near-shore environments, yet capable of open ocean operation independently or with a strike group. LCS fulfills a crucial role in the six core areas of the Navy’s Maritime Defense Strategy; forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security, humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR). These versatile platforms are designed to employ a “minimal manning” concept. A core crew usually consists of 40-50 highly qualified, screened and selected Sailors who operate the systems, stand watch and conduct maintenance all in support of the ship’s mission. With half of the LCS fleet deployed at all times, the LCS 3:2:1 (3 rotational crews: 2 rotational ships: 1 ship deployed) rotational crewing concept provides twice the forward presence than other surface combatants, at a fraction of the cost of other platforms.

“According to this concept, every four months one of three crews is either at sea, in port conducting upkeep and maintenance, or in the schoolhouse receiving training and maintaining currency on the most advanced shipboard engineering, navigational, RADAR and weapons systems in the fleet,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ed Giron, operational support officer for Littoral Combat Ship Squadron (LCSRON) ONE. With an operational schedule this demanding, the LCS program calls on their Reserve Component (RC) Sailors to “lighten the load” and support key duties and responsibilities while the ships are not deployed.

“Our Reserve Sailors are here to help,” said Giron. “They augment the crew and integrate into the workflow by taking over responsibilities such as anti-terrorism force protection (ATFP), watch standing, and planned maintenance and upkeep.” Giron says the RC plays such a pivotal role in the LCS program, their contribution saves the Navy money and man hours. “With the size of the core crew aboard an LCS, and the amount of periodic maintenance and upkeep that is required, it sometimes isn’t possible for the crew to complete it all without some extra support,” said Giron. “The Navy could hire contractors to come to the ships and do the maintenance and upkeep, but we’d rather leverage our fully qualified Reserve Sailors, who provide an incredible value to the fleet every time they arrive on the waterfront."

 

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While work such as planned maintenance and in port watchstanding may not be glamorous, the time and effort these Sailors contribute is invaluable. Currently operating at the LCSRON ONE headquarters at Naval Base San Diego, Senior Chief Mineman Timothy Kelly, senior enlisted leader of LCS Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Mission Module Fort Worth, Texas, says his Sailors are capable of incredible things.

“I often hear the term ‘force multiplier’ used a lot about the Reserve,” said Kelly. “While we are out here though, I get to actually see it in action.”

Recently, USS Independence (LCS 2) needed help with a maintenance availability in preparation for a lengthy voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. The work list included hundreds of maintenance checks – an enormous burden on the small crew. Sailors from multiple LCS Reserve units pitched n, completing nearly 150 of the checks, and allowing the ship’s force to focus on other critical predeployment requirements.

“I’m most excited and proud about my seven Sailors that qualified Officer of the Deck (OOD) and Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW) in port. These folks were able to take a huge burden off of the duty sections,” said Kelly. “In terms of operational support, it was one of the most productive ATs that I've been a part of in the last 23 years.”

RC Sailors are able to work seamlessly side-by-side with their active duty counterparts to complete the mission. “It’s really wonderful to see the Sailors integrate,” said Kelly. “You can’t tell the difference between active and Reserve; a Sailor is a Sailor.”

Today the LCS RC enterprise employs 13 units, with 450 Sailors at Navy Operational Support Centers in cities across the country ready to assist any of the four commissioned LCSs. Both the number of ships and the number of Reserve billets and units is growing. The RC Sailors’ contributions are divided into categories to assist in meeting the AC’s most pressing requirements: 5% in the training pipeline, 15% stand ATFP watches, 60% conduct ship maintenance, 10% support LCSRON ONE staff, and 10% augment mission modules.

According to Giron, the future looks even brighter with more units and more Sailors.

“By the end of fiscal year 18, we will have 20 units and 1,000 Reserve Sailors,” he said. “It’s only natural that with more LCS being built, the program will need more support and that’s why we are here.” To learn more about the LCS variants Surface Warfare Magazine

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