Cmdr. Pat Thien, left, commanding officer of the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1), guides Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karolina Oseguera as she pilots the ship during a man overboard drill in the South China Sea, Aug. 13. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief (Select) Mass Communication Specialist Cassandra Thompson)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - A junior Sailor aboard the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) had the rare opportunity to drive the warship Aug. 13, during a routine man overboard drill.

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karolina Oseguera took the helm and confidently executed a wide turn as Freedom's commanding cfficer, Cmdr. Pat Thien and electronics maintenance officer, Lt. Jonathan Alston, guided her towards the simulated man overboard, "Oscar."

"It was the coolest thing I've done all deployment," said Oseguera, who re-qualified as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist aboard Freedom in July. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, the ship is in auto-pilot. But once EMO showed me how to work the common [combination steering and boost] levers, it was easy to handle. Like driving your grandmother's Cadillac."

"She was good, really responsive to instruction," said Alston. "She understood everything we were teaching her."

Freedom's Command Master Chief Chris Kotz said he intends to give more junior Sailors the opportunity to observe bridge operations, take their turn at the wheel and interact with the commanding officer during key drills and evolutions.

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. Freedom will return to its homeport at the end of the year.