USS Independence Acts as 'School Ship' for Future LCS Crews
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh, Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk
USS INDEPENDENC, At Sea - Sailors assigned to littoral combat ship Pre-Commissioning Unit Coronado (LCS 4) are embarked aboard USS Independence (LCS 2) to learn about how the ship and crew operate at sea as the ship sails to its homeport of San Diego April 20.

Independence is hosting 11 Sailors from Coronado's Blue and Gold Crews for its maiden voyage to San Diego to familiarize them with Independence-class littoral combat ship before Coronado is commissioned in 2013.

"We are here to learn the procedures, technology, and best practices associated with operating a minimally manned warship," said Cmdr. Peter Kim, executive officer of Coronado's Gold Crew. "Additionally, we're capturing valuable lessons from the Independence plank owners so that we can help standardize the way we bring future LCS ships to life."

As the first and only commissioned ship in its class, Independence and the Sailors aboard are charged with the responsibility of teaching and lending their experience to future littoral combat ship crews.

"The Independence crew that took the ship through pre-commissioning didn't have the advantages of any kind of school ship," said Cmdr. David Back, executive officer of Independence's Gold Crew. "Now that we have a functional ship, it's vital to the LCS program's success that we get as many people from other LCS ships out here to train and learn so they can go back to their ships and operate them safely and effectively."

Once Coronado is commissioned and has completed required testing, they will share Independence's homeport, making the same maiden voyage to San Diego and encountering similar same challenges.

"We'll adopt what we can, build on their foundation, and hopefully be able to give back as much as they have to the Independence class," said Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Burkholder, Coronado Blue Crew combat systems officer.

Burkholder added that specifically, during this underway, Independence transited the Panama Canal, providing substantial lessons learned and experience.

"Even though the space between the ship and the locks was only a few feet, they completed the transit successfully, paving the way for future Independence-class ships," said Burkholder.

While onboard, Coronado Sailors get a firsthand look at where they will be working, eating and sleeping. They're also using the same equipment, under the similar conditions.

Like the other embarked Coronado Sailors, Chief Logistics Specialist Oliver Olivo, Coronado Blue Crew supply officer, has been working side-by-side with his Independence counterpart. He said he has learned many valuable lessons from the Independence crew he calls a "well-oiled machine."

"They are all well-rounded Sailors," said Olivo. "I'll use the information and lessons I have learned from them and implement that into my work area, especially in regards to galley layout and equipment."

Chief Damage Controlman Jason Lobb, Coronado Blue Crew damage control assistant, said the most impressive thing he has witnessed is the camaraderie of the crew.

"It's definitely impressive when everybody comes together to do one thing-just look at all-hands sweepers, where everyone turns out," said Lobb. "I'm going to take what I've learned back to Coronado and show everybody. We will come together as a team and either adopt exactly what they are doing here or make some modifications and possibly improve."

Sailors assigned to Independence's Gold Crew and embarked Mine Countermeasures Detachment 1 are underway for the ship's maiden voyage to San Diego.
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