Sorry it has been a while since my last post and I don’t have any fun kid videos because I was away last week. My boss has oversight of the shipyard in Marionette, Wisconsin responsible for the first LittoralCombat Ship or LCS-1, USS FREEDOM. I was very impressed by LCS-1. The crew had moved aboard and were taking care of the ship. I was sent to WI to help with one final detail before the ship sailed away toward the port where she will be commissioned. It was an honor to be, although small, a part of her initial outfitting. Her strengths are her steel hull, speed, maneuverability, man power efficiency (two crews of just over 40 that rotate), and flexibility. One thing that must be said for Marionette Marine is that they have excellent craftsmanship. In an effort to learn as much “tribal” knowledge about the ship as I could, I chose to stay in the hotel that some of the crew were staying. Aside: This ship is manned with two small crews (blue crew and gold crew) like a ballistic missile submarine. The off crew was staying at the Best Western. I sat down near a crew member at the hotel restaurant and struck up a conversation. The Littoral Combat Ship is really a big leap forward for the US Navy. It incorporates an incredible amount of technology in order to reduce the manning by about 75%. It combines engineering and bridge watch stations, automates fire fighting and casualty response, and essentially requires each Sailor to be a jack of all trades including their own cooks and cleaners. I was curious to hear how a Chief Petty Officer aboard LCS-1 was handling such a change from the norm. When questioned about his experience he acknowledged that it was a shift but said that it was a needed one. Everyone pitches in and pulls their weight and that crews were tight. I also talked with an officer that night and asked some direct operational questions that seemed to pose a problem like refueling at sea and manning flight quarters. They were still working some of those types of things out. One problem is that Navy inspectors have to accept the fact that they are not going to be 5 people on the bridge any more or 3 down in engineering… I am not a huge fan of minimum manning on conventional ships but these really seem to have the potential to shift the Navy paradigm.
One other thing I learned while in Marionette was that I liked Wisconsin. I flew into Appleton and drove to Marionette. What a beautiful place WI is. While driving I noticed a mile stretch of fence that had perfect little quart sized pumpkins on each post. One more state to check off my list!