Freedom will be initially manned by her "Gold" crew of 91 Sailors to include mission package personnel an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60 helicopter.
Freedom is the first of three commissioned LCSs, which were designed to perform operations close to shore. LCSs are slightly smaller than guided missile frigates in size, but have the capabilities of a small assault transport with a flight deck and hangar, the ability to recover and launch small boats from a stern ramp, and enough cargo volume and payload to deliver a small assault force with armored fighting vehicles to a roll-on/roll-off port facility.
"We have a 40-man crew right now, so the jobs of the staff are more dynamic," said Senior Chief Kenneth F. Jablecki, command master chief, USS Freedom Gold Crew. "On an LCS, everyone is doing everyone's job. Our entire crew has to do everything. The workload is high pace. We have a close working relationship with the entire crew. LCS is a great opportunity and we're looking forward to this deployment."
"Freedom's maiden deployment is another clear signal of the Navy's enduring commitment to maintain security and stability in the vital Asia-Pacific region," said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. "Rotationally deploying our new littoral combat ships improves our warfighting capability and directly supports the Navy's rebalance strategy to the Asia-Pacific.
"Even in the face of potential budget cuts, there should be no doubt that the U.S. Pacific Fleet remains on watch and that we will continue to deploy our most capable units forward to operate with our allies and partners."
During the first LCS deployment, Freedom will demonstrate her operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. Fast, agile, and mission-focused, LCS platforms are designed to employ modular mission packages that can be configured for three separate purposes: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare.
"We are genuinely excited about our deployment," said Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, Freedom's “Gold” crew commanding officer. "The men and women of Freedom have worked extremely hard to get us to where we are today, and I couldn't be prouder. We're ready to get out there, work with regional navies and show the world what this ship can do."
Freedom’s smaller crew size naturally leads to a stronger sense of camaraderie according the crewmembers.
“Here everybody wants to go (on deployment). From a simple pre-deployment brief, I’ve never seen it so full. I know it’s only 40 of us, but the full 40 crewmembers plus spouses plus children were all there. And they were very attentive,” said Chief Engineman Enrique Ramos, LCS-1 crewmember. “I was pretty amazed that night. The majority of time I hear people complaining but everybody was just supportive. From families to the personnel they were great. Even the family members want this program to succeed.”