Chief Gas Turbine Systems Mechanic Todd Furst, right, assigned to USS Freedom's (LCS 1) "Gold" crew monitors propulsion plant readings from the bridge with incoming "Blue" crew readiness control officer Chief Engineman Shannon Thomas., July 30. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - As the deployment to Southeast Asia draws to a close for USS Freedom's (LCS 1) "Gold" crew, an advance team of "Blue" crew Sailors is in Singapore to participate in a brief sea trial that began July 30, as part of the upcoming crew swap.

The crew swap is a key milestone during Freedom's maiden overseas deployment to Southeast Asia, and marks the midway point. During the underway, Freedom will conduct a series of watch stander exchanges designed to refresh the incoming crew on key LCS operations and procedures, covering seamanship, navigation, naval gunnery, and damage control.

The advance team arrived July 26, and will be joined by the full "Blue" crew soon for a series of shore-based events that will continue into next month.

"This underway will allow the advance team of Crew 101 (also known as the "Blue" crew) to become familiar with routine LCS operations in this part of the world," said "Gold" crew operations officer, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Harris. "We will conduct several evolutions - including flight operations, small boat operations and gun shoots - to support the turnover process."

The "Gold" crew's command master chief explained that part of the turnover also includes ensuring the incoming crew's senior enlisted leadership continues the professional development and morale building events that have given his crew the successes of the last four months.

"It is nice to see the finish line," said Freedom's Command Master Chief Kenneth Jablecki. "The crew has worked hard these past five months and we are going to continue to work hard this underway to make sure we turnover a fully functional ship to the Blue crew. We need to ensure they achieve mission success not only for the Freedom but for the LCS program as a whole."

Freedom's first rotational deployment to Southeast Asia began March 1, when the ship departed San Diego and commenced a Pacific Ocean transit that included port visits in Hawaii, Guam and Manila. Since arriving in Singapore April 18, Freedom has participated in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX), two separate phases of the bilateral naval exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) with Malaysia and Singapore, and hosted thousands of visitors from throughout Southeast Asia. Throughout the deployment, Freedom will remain home-ported in San Diego.

Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are 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.