By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson
USS FREEDOM, At Sea (June 21, 2013) – Sailors aboard USS Freedom (LCS 1) had an unique opportunity to support amphibious assault exercise when Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the forward deployed amphibious dock landing ship (LSD 46) USS Tortuga conducted an amphibious raid with Malaysian Army paratroopers, June 22. Freedom and Tortuga are in Malaysia participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2013.
Sailors assigned to Freedom’s surface warfare mission package acted as safety observers from the ship’s 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), while the embarked crew of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73 provided aerial support with Freedom’s MH-60R helicopter. With its shallow draft, Freedom was able to anchor closer to the beach than other units and monitor the landing events.
“It was a good proof of concept for LCS and the squadron of the capabilities we could provide to the mission,” said Lt. Mike Roselli, attached to HSM 73. “The Romeo was able to provide maritime support to the amphibious force. We could if needed provide Hellfire [missiles], torpedoes or a Search and Rescue swimmer.”
With just 91 Sailors on board, the Freedom crew routinely supports more than one evolution a day. CARAT Malaysia was another opportunity for these Sailors to show their dedication and drive.
“I was on the picket boat that provided security for the ship,” Engineman 3rd Class Jennifer Ordenana. “Since CARAT started, I’ve been part of multiple exercises with both the engineering department and VBSS – from refueling the helo in the pump room to being a small boat engineer on an 11-meter RHIB. It’s been cool.”
CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
Continuing through June 23, CARAT Malaysia 2013 consists of ten days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security concerns, develop relationships, and enhance interoperability among participating forces. Participation in the CARAT exercise series is among the key milestones during Freedom’s maiden rotational deployment to Southeast Asia.
Fast, agile and mission-focused, LCS platforms are designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for three separate purposes: surfaces warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare. Home ported in San Diego, Freedom is currently on its maiden deployment and is manned by her “Gold” crew. Midway through the deployment, a crew-swap will be conducted with her “Blue” crew.
More than 1,200 U.S. Sailors and Marines are participating in CARAT Malaysia 2013. Additional ships in CARAT Task Group 73.1 are the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) with embarked Destroyer Squadron 7 staff, the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) with embarked USMC Landing Force, and the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) with embarked Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 (MUDSU).