Freedom Sailors Explore Naval Heritage at Arizona Memorial
By Ensign Kelly Reightler, USS Freedom (LCS 1) Gold Crew
The crew of USS Freedom (LCS 1) departed March 1 from San Diego on an inaugural deployment to U.S. Seventh Fleet that is sure to result in a number of firsts in Surface Warfare. While Freedom Sailors are used to blazing new trails and are writing the book on how to operate an entirely new class of warship, it might seem surprising that the initial days of our deployment presented an opportunity to gain inspiration from the generations of Sailors who have stood the watch before us.
Perhaps we can thank our fresh camouflage paint scheme for giving a renewed perspective on our role in a long lineage of ships in our United States Navy. In the weeks since Freedom emerged from a four-week drydock availability that resulted in a multi-hued superstructure and hull paint pattern inspired by the paint applications from World War II, feedback from the community of veterans who recall our Navy’s critical role in that era has poured in with enthusiasm for our ship and its crew. Sailors past and present have commented extensively on our command’s Facebook page about the feelings of pride, remembrance and nostalgia that are elicited by a simple four-color paint scheme—last seen in our fleet nearly 70 years ago.
During a brief stop in Hawaii, Freedom’s entire complement of core crew, SUW Mission Det ONE, and HSM 73 Combat Element ONE were afforded the opportunity to further explore our naval heritage with a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. Sailors embarked on a waterborne tour of Pearl Harbor and its East, Middle and West Lochs. From our position aboard the barge, we were able to view various sites impacted by the attack and also gain a sea-side perspective of the position and movement of ships stationed in Pearl Harbor during the attack. Passing USS Bowfin, USS Utah Memorial and Nevada Point reinforced the historical significance of this hallowed ground where so many young Sailors died on Dec. 7, 1941.
When the boat docked at the Memorial entrance, Sailors solemnly filed into the bright white corridor that crowns the Arizona and her crew. Sunlight from the 21 large windows engulfed the Memorial and our dress white uniforms. Peering at the waters below, we joined the millions of visitors who have contemplated the wreckage that still bleeds oil 71 years after the attack. The fuel that pools on the surface of the water is referred to as “Tears of the Arizona” and is a moving reminder of the tragedy on that December morning. Perhaps the most moving part of our visit was observing the massive marble wall at the Memorial’s conclusion where the names of all those who lost their life on USS Arizona are displayed. For Freedom Sailors so far removed from the conflict of WWII, the connection was tangible between the common names, ratings and pay grades that are still used by those who serve in our ranks today.
Upon departure from the USS Arizona Memorial, our barge offered a glimpse of Freedom moored across the harbor—her silhouette confused by the broken sections of newly painted sides and superstructure—on still waters that were probably not unlike those that Arizona rested upon in 1941. Our port visit to Pearl Harbor was relatively short, but a connection was made between past, present and future by bearing witness to our fallen shipmates on USS Arizona. This will carry forward with us for thousands of miles ahead during this deployment, and the future missions Freedom will carry out in service of our great nation.
Ensign Kelly Reightler is a 2012 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the First Lieutenant in USS FREEDOM (LCS 1) Gold Crew.
*Photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerine Lee