SEMBAWANG, Singapore - LCS Crew 104 Juggernauts successfully completed the first quarter of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth's (LCS 3) maiden 16-month deployment to the Asia-Pacific following a crew swap with LCS Crew 103 Rough Riders Feb. 17.
Crew 104 deployed Fort Worth from her homeport in San Diego in November 2014, transiting across the Pacific Ocean and making port visits in Hawaii, Guam and Jakarta before arriving at her maintenance and logistics hub in Singapore in late December. Days later, Fort Worth joined multinational search efforts for AirAisa Flight QZ8501 at the request of the Indonesian government.
"Fort Worth has already answered the call from a regional partner very early in her first 16-month rotational deployment -- this early success speaks to the operational value that LCS brings to 7th Fleet and we look forward to bringing more of these ships to the region simultaneously in the coming years," said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific and commander, U.S. 7th Fleet's Task Force 73.
Fort Worth is the first LCS to deploy under the "3-2-1" manning concept, which allows LCS to sustain a 16-month forward presence without fatiguing the crew during the extended deployment. It is named 3-2-1 because three rotational crews will support two LCS ships and maintain one deployed ship. Two additional crew swaps will occur for the remainder of Fort Worth's deployment, roughly every four months.
"Just as I said in December, Fort Worth's arrival in the region is the dawn of a new age for U.S. Navy operations in Southeast Asia," said Capt. Fred Kacher, Destroyer Squadron 7 commodore and tactical commander of Fort Worth. "Through a number of high-visibility operations and events over the past few months, you have shown why forward presence in Southeast Asia matters and have made an immediate, positive impact not only within our own Navy but with our regional partners."
Crew 104, along with embarked Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 Detachment 1 and Surface Warfare Mission (SUW) Package Detachment 3, transited directly from San Diego to Hawaii, where the ship conducted helicopter deck landing qualifications off the Hawaiian coast in late November as part of a joint exercise with the Army and Marines. The exercise provided an opportunity for pilots from both services to become familiar with landing on one of the Navy's newest warships.
While Fort Worth stopped to refuel in Guam Dec. 11, Navy Expeditionary Forces Command Pacific (CTF 75) took the opportunity to tour the ship, gaining a better understanding of how LCS' adaptability, speed and maneuverability can support future CTF 75 requirements in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
Fort Worth made its initial Southeast Asia port visit in Jakarta Dec. 22, marking the first-ever LCS visit to Indonesia. During the five-day stop, the crew hosted U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake as well as senior leaders from the Indonesian government and navy during a reception and ship tours.
Just after arriving in Singapore in late December, U.S. 7th Fleet tasked Fort Worth to join in the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 search effort at the request of the Indonesian government. After loading supplies and embarking an eight-member team from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, Fort Worth departed Singapore Jan. 2 and arrived on station in the Java Sea Jan. 3. During Fort Worth's nearly two weeks on station, the ship teamed up with the guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) and conducted around-the-clock searches to locate the missing plane. The AirAsia search marked the first time an LCS and DDG worked jointly to conduct real world operations, with each ship bringing unique capabilities to support the search.
"From San Diego to Singapore, and all the stops in between, I couldn't be prouder of Crew 104," said Cmdr. Kendall Bridgewater, LCS Crew 104 commanding officer. "The Sailors have successfully met every challenge and tasking with poise and dedication, exceeding expectations for all that has been put before them."
"The Feb. 17 crew turnover with Crew 103 is the fourth turnover between Crews 104 and 103. This familiarity between the crews has fostered trust and respect between us and has contributed to the success of the first-ever forward deployed crew swap under the 3-2-1 manning concept," said Bridgewater.
Crew 104 will arrive at their homeport of San Diego Feb. 18, where the crew will spend time training on-shore and off the California coast before redeploying in May to Marinette, Wisconsin, and serving as the commissioning crew for the littoral combat ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Milwaukee (LCS 5), the third ship in the Freedom class.
"The great thing about the LCS program as a whole is that it creates tight-knit, highly trained crews. While performing the crew swap in a forward deployed status is unique and different, it ran smoothly because Crews 103 and 104 have a history together," said Cmdr. Matt Kawas, Crew 103 commanding officer. "Simply, our flow is very efficient and very familiar, allowing us to optimize the time we had together during the turnover."
Crew 103 comes aboard with about 100 Sailors, which includes Sailors from HSM-35 Detachment 2 and SUW Mission Package Detachment 1. Shortly after crew swap, Fort Worth will get underway and conduct port visits, patrols, and starting with Foal Eagle in March, exercises with regional navies throughout U.S. 7th Feet. Held annually with the Republic of Korea navy, Foal Eagle also is the first exercise in Northeast Asia that incorporates LCS participation.
"My Rough Riders are thrilled to get back to Fort Worth and we are eager to build upon the outstanding work of Cmdr. Bridgewater and his Juggernauts in the first quarter of the ship's deployment. As part of the new manning construct, we trained hard both ashore and on USS Freedom (LCS 1) and are looking forward to taking what we have learned to support the 7th Fleet Commander during operations and exercises with our partner nations," said Kawas.
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. Fort Worth will employ the surface warfare mission package for her entire deployment, augmenting her 57mm gun and rolling airframe missile launcher with two 30mm guns, two 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats and two six-member maritime security boarding teams.
Fort Worth is the second LCS to deploy as part of an initiative for up to four rotational deployments of these ships simultaneously to U.S. 7th Fleet in the coming years. Fast, agile and mission-focused, LCS is 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.
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.