Guest Blog By Ensign Emily Judstra, Commander, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One Public Affairs
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program completed the first nine core crew and mission package detachment mergers this month. The mergers are being implemented based on recommendations made during a 2016 Chief of Naval Operations-directed review of the LCS program; merging the core crew and mission detachment crew into a single crew of 70 Sailors will improve enlisted rating utilization, create crew stability, and reduce complexity for LCS Sailors.
“The merger enables our Sailors to become experts in their mission areas and assigned duties while minimizing the potential for Sailor burn-out we saw in the initial minimal manning concept,” said Lt. Cmdr. Justin Golson, director of mission packages at Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One.
The initial LCS operational concept called for minimally manned crews to rotate on and off hull, while being supplemented by modular mission packages and accompanying rotating mission package detachments. The review team determined ships should retain a single-mission focus and merge core crews and mission detachments, promoting increased stability, ownership, reliability and operational capability.
“This merger does change the concept of operations for littoral combat ships operating forward, however it does not decrease the operational capability of the ships,” said Golson.
Although the crew-detachment merger has LCS crews transitioning toward a single mission focus, the LCS program, as a whole, will retain its modularity. In the event that a different mission package is required for an operational requirement, either an entirely different configured LCS will be employed, or the original designated ship will embark a new mission package and appropriately qualified crew.
As the LCS program steps into a new realm of operations, Commander, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One, Capt. Jordy Harrison said that the future of the LCS program looks promising.
“The commitment and dedication to the success of the program is stronger than ever and we are continually looking for ways to improve,” said Harrison. “The mission detachment and core crew merger is just the first in many steps to ensure that LCS becomes the fast, agile, and lethal fighting force that is was designed to be. This is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning for one our Navy’s newest and most exciting ship classes.”
All LCS crew and detachment mergers are scheduled for completion by 2021.
Guest Blog By Commander Emily Bassett, commanding officer, PCU Manchester (LCS 14)
“You belong here.”
That was my answer when a junior officer asked me, “What would you tell your junior self, if you could go back in time?” We were participants in a National Naval Officers Association-sponsored “Flag/CO/XO speed-mentoring” session.
I had never heard the question before, and I thought it was an insightful one.
“You belong here,” is what first came to my mind.
If I could have convinced Ensign Emily, Lieutenant Junior Grade Emily, Lieutenant Emily, Lieutenant Commander Emily, and even Commander Emily that, “You belong here,” I would have saved myself a lot of energy and lost a lot less sleep over my career. How much time did I spend trying to convince myself and others that I belonged where I was? Throughout my career, I reported to new jobs, convinced the Navy had detailed me beyond my level of capability. I thought I had to prove to those whom I led and those who led me that I belonged where I was, doing what I was doing.
Belonging. That’s exactly how a mineman senior chief framed his feelings earlier that day about the pending “crew-det merger” for littoral combat ships. His mine countermeasures detachment (MCM Det 5) was merging with my crew (LCS Crew 214). Together, we would be the crew to commission USS Manchester (LCS 14).
As part of a larger Chief of Naval Operations-directed plan affecting each crew and each detachment, on Jan. 31, commodore, LCSRON ONE, signed a directive stating that the 20 Sailors of MCM Det 5 would no longer serve as a separate “detachment.” LCS Crew 214’s new organizational charts and watchbill qualifications would integrate billets and watchstations for these mine countermeasures Sailors together with the original Crew 214 Sailors. As a pre-commissioning crew, we know the work we have cut out for ourselves and we welcome the additional Sailors.
I offered my support to the mineman senior chief and asked him, “How can I make sure I do right by you and by the Sailors of the mine warfare specific ratings?” We are a pre-commissioning crew and are over a year away from getting mine warfare gear on board.
“Ma’am,” he told me, “we will manage around that. It’s just nice to belong to a crew.”
Belonging. It also means to be part of a team. It means being integrated into the crew with leadership roles, with collateral duties, and with a qualification path to watches that are critical to the ship’s mission. It means camaraderie and connection with one crew and one ship. His simple words touched me deeply.
Any leader who has been in the Navy long enough to do many “check-in interviews” with newly-reporting Sailors knows instinctively why our nation’s citizens volunteer to join the Navy. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of crew, a team with a mission. They want to be valued.
Over the years, I’ve always remembered a saying on the placards that hung in two of my former captains’ staterooms: “Bloom where you are planted.”
It’s a lesson I learned over and over with each new assignment. Now that I am in command, given this rare opportunity with the crew-det merger, I have one message for the Sailors of MCM Det 5, and for all Sailors everywhere with the honor and privilege to serve in our country’s Navy: you belong here.
Editor’s note: Commander Emily Bassett and her crew are expected to be the on-hull crew for USS Manchester (LCS 14)’s commissioning in 2018.
The U.S. Navy is the greatest Navy the world has ever known – and we intend to keep it that way! To remain the preeminent maritime force, we are dedicated to investing now to produce a more effective and more lethal Surface Force for the future. That means adding ships to the fleet – and while we design for the future, we draw inspiration from the past when we choose bold names for them.
As part of his position, former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus had the privilege of naming new vessels. In his nearly eight-year tenure, he has selected many monikers, including nine honoring Medal of Honor recipients. These American heroes, whose valiant acts and names represent the fighting spirit desired in a ship, earned the esteemed award through various acts of bravery and sacrifice. This week, as we wrap up this series, we remember the courageous men behind the future USS John Basilone, the future USS Jack H. Lucas, and the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr.
The future USS John Basilone (DDG 122) honors U.S. Marine Sergeant John Basilone. During fierce battle action against enemy Japanese forces in Lunga Area, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands on Oct. 24-25, 1942, one of the two heavy machine gun sections he was in charge of was put out of action. Basilone immediately put another gun into position and into action. He then repaired and manned a separate gun until replacements arrived. Later when American gunners’ ammunition grew critically low and supply lines were cut off, Basilone battled his way through hostile lines to deliver replenishment rounds which directly contributed in the neutralization of a Japanese regiment.
The future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125) honors the youngest U.S. Marine and service member in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor. During the Battle of Iwo Jima, then Private 1st Class Jacklyn Harold Lucas and three others were ambushed by hostile forces and attacked by enemies using rifle fire and hand-grenades. Lucas selflessly hurled himself upon a grenade and pulled the other under him in order to absorb the blasts and shield his comrades. One grenade didn’t detonate and the other merely caused non-fatal wounds. His inspiring act protected his fellow Marines and enabled them to go on to rout the Japanese patrol and continue the advance.
The future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG 126) honors U.S. Marine Corps General Louis H. Wilson Jr. for heroic actions during the World War II Battle of Guam in July 1944. Then a captain and commanding officer of a rifle company, Wilson led his men in taking and holding a hill against enormous odds. Although wounded three times, he fought against counterattacks throughout the night. During the epic 10-hour fight, he took part in fierce hand-to-hand combat and made a dash into open space beyond the frontlines to rescue a wounded Marine. Wilson later lead a 17-man patrol in taking a strategic slope essential to the security of their position and, despite losing 13 fellow soldiers, seized the objective. He was promoted to the rank of General on July 1, 1975, and assumed the office of commandant of the Marine Corps.
With inspirational namesakes like these, the Surface Force of the future is off to a great start – for surely the crews that man such ships will embody the fighting spirits of their namesakes as they stand ready with the ability to impose local maritime superiority when and where needed.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our entire ‘Surface Navy Remembers Medal of Honor Recipients’ series and took pleasure in learning about each of the 28 heroic men whose indomitable spirits live on, at least in part, through our mighty surface warships named in their honor.
America is, and always has been, a maritime nation. Today, just like centuries before, the oceans are the key to our influence, our security and our prosperity. As the global economy continues to expand and become more connected, the U.S. Navy, and specifically the Naval Surface Force’s ability to exert sea control when necessary – from the open ocean trade routes to the to the shallow littorals along continental coastlines, is vital to maintaining the free flow of goods over the world’s oceans and, ultimately, the economic stability of many countries. For the United States, with 25 percent of all U.S. jobs being directly or indirectly tied to global trade, sea control is a must.
That being said, the global maritime security environment has entered a complex time where threats to navigational freedom are being presented in a broad array – from low-end piracy to well-armed non-state militant groups, as well as sophisticated adversaries being determined, at times, to unlawfully rule certain regions and resources.
So given this shift in the environment, how do we achieve and sustain sea control when necessary to protect the oceans – the lifeblood of the interconnected global community?
This week, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Vice Admiral Tom Rowden addressed this issue with Sailors and Marines Forces of the San Diego waterfront as he spoke to the merits of the recently released Surface Force Strategy. The strategy maps out Surface Forces’ return to sea control and provides more substance to the organizing and operating principle of Distributed Lethality.
“If you’re going to control the sea you’re going to do it with ships because ships bring capacity and capability. Existential threats to the United States of America are going to come from countries who are trying to control the sea,” said Rowden.
He began the conversation with a brief history discussion of how our current maritime environment was shaped – from the end of the Cold War to supporting the recent conflicts in the Middle East.
“By 1992, the Soviet Union has ceased to exist. It’s dissolved and all of their submarines, ships and aircraft were tied up to the pier. And so, almost overnight, we woke up and we had this thing that had eluded us for decades – we had sea control. We had it in the Eastern Pacific, the Western Pacific, in the Indian Ocean, in the Arabian Gulf, the Mediterranean. We had it everywhere,” said Rowden.
In the following decades, without an enduring threat to sea control, the U.S. Navy did what it does best, and that is to adapt to the strategic environment. Just as the visionaries of the ‘70’s saw that the Soviets could be pressured by offensive sea power, a new group of visionaries saw that the mobility, flexibility, and endurance of naval forces—compounded by the revolution in precision guided weapons—could act as a powerful enabler of the Joint, multi-domain fight.
“We were afforded the luxury of being able to shift our emphasis, shift our investments to power projection ashore. So, over the years, we adjusted the flight deck of our aircraft carriers quite appropriately. We adjusted the armament on our ships, we started to look differently at surface ships,” said Rowden.
While participating in a series of high-level war game exercises several years ago, Rowden realized that decades of deemphasizing sea control meant the fleet had concentrated the lethality of the force on to the flight decks of our aircraft carriers. Consequently, the opposing force in the exercise focused almost exclusively on trying to kill the aircraft carrier and end its power projection abilities. Rowden’s response to their efforts was to successfully distribute his force of Littoral Combat Ships and go on the offensive – using these ships in an unforeseen manner to attack the opposing combatant ships. This immediately changed the adversary’s strategy and how they operated their ships.
His success during the exercise may have been the genesis for a multi-year effort to develop the new Surface Force Strategy, as Rowden reconsidered how naval forces might be better employed.
“I asked myself ‘Why don’t we distribute the lethality of the force back to the Surface Forces, back to the sea control assets, in order to complicate the problem for the adversary with respect to how it is they’re going to execute operations at sea, and perhaps even more important for their government, force them to invest differently,’” said Rowden, “How do we do this? We came up with this great concept called Distributed Lethality.”
Could the U.S. Navy make adjustments to existing weapons systems to go on the offensive?
The short answer was yes – by modifying a number of defensive weapons to also serve an offensive purpose, retrofitting ships to handle those capabilities, and backfitting various current computing systems to work on older IT infrastructure to enhance their capabilities, the lethality of surface ships was quickly enhanced. These improvements force an adversary operating at sea to not only calculate for the capabilities of the aircraft carriers, but now also the enhanced offensive capability of all U.S. Navy warships at sea.
“Distribution of lethality is not necessarily about distributing the lethality of the force for the sake of distributing lethality. It’s distributing lethality of the force to enable sea control. That’s why the title of the Surface Force Strategy is ‘The Return to Sea Control.’ People read the strategy and they go, ‘Did we ever lose it?’ I don’t know. But we’re certainly facing more challenges,” said Rowden.
He explained that while surface ships will play a huge role in the Navy’s return to sea control they’re not the only players on our team.
“This is not all about surface ships. This is about the combined capability of submarines, aircraft, aircraft carriers, and warships and the men and women who operate them. This is about making everybody more lethal and understanding that we’re headed into a fight for sea control. It’s not about controlling all the sea, all the time. You need to control the sea, you need to control, for the amount of time you need to control it, and then relinquish control [at your choosing].”
Ultimately, the Surface Force Strategy was created to help the Sailors carrying out the sea control mission and Rowden intends to do everything within his power to ensure they are combat ready.
He told the crowd, “As we talk about the organizing principle of Distributed Lethality, as we talk about the return to sea control and the driving investments associated with that, we’re starting to see some big payoff. This is all about YOU and making sure you have the talent, the tools, the tactics, and the training in order to get the job done!”
By Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
As the surface warfare community continues to evolve – leveraging new technologies and operating concepts in order to remain the world’s most effective, persistent, and resilient surface navy – we realize our greatest strength comes from being able to appropriately cultivate and focus the talents of our Sailors. Individually, each brings something unique to the fight; together, they enable all of our community’s many successes.
Recently, Surface Force leadership had an opportunity to meet with Chief of Naval Personnel staff for an annual Strategic Workforce Assessment. This review allows us to improve our understanding of community demographics, challenges, and workforce strategies, as well as help shape policy, strategy, and program execution. Ultimately, these assessments help us bolster the Navy’s inclusive culture and diverse team.
“I fully expect all levels of Surface Force leadership to recognize existing diversity biases and actively work to eliminate their influence on our ability to recruit, promote, and retain the best military and civilian warfighters,” said Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces, when addressing this critical personnel readiness issue.
An inculcation of the “power of diversity” across the surface enterprise throughout the last two decades has put the surface community on a positive path toward bringing real equality to the opportunities available for all in the surface fleet. Our 15-year trend of increased female accession, our 13-year trend of increased diversity for senior officers, and our 12-year trend of increased diversity throughout surface force enlisted ranks are all demonstrative of our commitment to recognizing and recruiting talent across the nation’s population.
With this information in mind, it is important for the surface community to create a culture that is welcoming, challenging, and rewarding for all – we must respect the fact that we are in competition with Fortune 500 companies to attract and retain talent.
In 2007, then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen issued guidance focusing on execution, in which he said, “Diversity is a leadership issue, and everyone is a leader. Through our communications, education, policies, programs and conduct, each of us must actively foster environments where people are valued, respected, and provided the opportunity to reach their full personal and professional potential.”
The surface community is proud of the work it has done to promote deserving mentors and role models for the young diverse talent entering the community. As an example, we have outstanding female role models serving throughout the Navy’s ranks; from the Navy’s highest-ranking woman, Admiral Michelle Howard wearing three leadership hats – as commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa – to all but two of our surface ships having female leadership in their chief petty officer ranks.
In the surface warfare officer ranks, the quality of leadership provided by the female contingent is extraordinary. In total we have three active-duty flag-level officers who have blazed a trail, and smashed a few stereotypes along the way – lodestars for so many behind them. And following not too far behind are the next generations of high-performance officers. We have 15 females currently serving as commanders-at-sea (and 11 more in fleet-up tours), 82 women selected for command-at-sea, 25 percent of year group 2008 being retained for department head roles, and year group 2016 being the largest female accessioning in the community’s history.
That being said, the entire surface force still has the responsibility to lean forward. We must address and overcome obstacles to allow surface Sailors to reach their full personal and professional potential. Particularly pertinent to the female ranks is the goal of achieving full integration across all platforms, demonstrating continued retention growth, and maintaining strong female enlisted khaki representation at all levels. The community has come a long way, but there is still much to be covered.
In his recently released strategy document, “Return to Sea Control,” Rowden puts heavy emphasis on managing, “the extraordinary talent that exists within our surface force with a view towards building depth, breadth, and experience for the future.” He goes on to say that “tomorrow’s challenges demand we engage the most creative and influential minds and attract and retain the best and most qualified people.”
Warfighting excellence in the surface fleet can only be optimized when we fully respect the dignity of every individual, incorporate their talent into our planning processes, and value the time and skills they invest with us. Diversity allows different viewpoints to be put on the table when addressing issues and promotes a culture of critical thinking. We demand a warfighting spirit; our Sailors deserve the proper resources, tools, and training necessary for mission accomplishment!
Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) recently announced the 2016 SURFPAC Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year (SOY) during a banquet at the Admiral Kidd Catering and Conference Center in San Diego.
During the banquet, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Brent Schermerhorn was named as the Sea Sailor of the Year and Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Jason Robinson was declared the Shore Sailor of the Year. Schermerhorn serves aboard USS Preble (DDG 88) while Robinson is assigned to Assault Craft Unit Five.
“These amazing Sailors are the best at what they do, and were hand-selected by their commands,” said Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Force. “All the Sailor of the Year nominees represent the best of our nation both at home and abroad. Now they are in a position to be role models, to set an example, and to reach back and bring junior sailors up to the next level, and to make them Sailor of the Year material one day, too.”
The annual competition began with a field of more than 100 SOYs from sea and shore commands around the Pacific, with four selected from sea commands and four selected from shore commands to participate in the SOY week. During the week leading up to the banquet, all eight contestants and their spouses participated in a variety of local events and activities, interacting and learning from senior leadership and each other.
Their visits included trips to the USS Midway Museum and the San Diego Zoo.
The winners will now compete in Hawaii with other nominees to be named the U.S. Pacific Fleet Shore and Sea SOY. The top Sea Sailor will be eligible for meritorious promotion to chief petty officer and the Shore SOY will move on to compete in Washington, D.C., for possible designation as the 2016 Chief of Naval Operations Shore SOY.
The other finalists for the Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year were Personnel Specialist 1st Class Jeff B. Salguero, Naval Surface Force headquarters; Master-at-Arms 1st Class Anthony S. Puleo, III, Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific; Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Don William Aukshun, Mine Counter Measures Squadron Three; Electronics Technician 1st Class Fidencio Castellanos, Littoral Combat Ship Crew 111; Logistics Specialist 1st Class Kristie L. Pierre, USS Dewey (DDG 105); and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Jery A. Vasquez, USS Sentry (MCM 3).
Some spirits simply can’t be broken. No matter the task at hand, and without regard for the impact on their own health and well-being, some people just get the job done. United States service members in receipt of the nation’s highest recognition of valor, the Medal of Honor, epitomize that unyielding drive.
With never-ending gratitude for their selfless actions, the U.S. Navy has honored many Medal of Honor recipients by making them namesakes for warships in the fleet. In the future, Surface Forces will operate a total of 28 warships with names memorializing moments of heroic sacrifice. Today we recognize three more of the upcoming additions: the future USS Michael Monsoor, the future USS Ralph Johnson, and the future USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr.
The future USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) honors U.S. Navy Master-At-Arms Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor. Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for diving on top of a grenade, Monsoor saved the lives of two of his teammates during a battle with insurgents in Ar Ramadi, Iraq on Sept. 29, 2006. DDG 1001 is scheduled for commissioning into active service in calendar year 2017.
The future USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) honors of U.S. Marine Corps Private 1st Class Ralph H. Johnson. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the Vietnam conflict. While under heavy attack from North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces on March 5, 1968, a grenade landed in the fighting position Johnson and two other Marines were defending. He immediately shouted a warning and hurled himself onto the grenade. Absorbing the blast, Johnson was instantly killed by the explosion.
The future Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG 124) honors U.S. Marine 1st Lieutenant Harvey C. Barnum, Jr. On Dec. 18, 1965, in Vietnam, Barnum aided his mortally wounded Rifle Company Commander, took the radio from the deceased radio operator and, with the unit separated from the rest of the battalion, assumed command. He reorganized the men to replace the loss of personnel and led an attack on key enemy positions. Barnum repeatedly stood-up during
open gunfire to point out targets and maneuvered through enemy fire to control the attack, which ultimately led to the seizure of the battalion’s objective.
As times goes on, these U.S. Navy ships, named for our nation’s heroes, will come to life and travel the globe to help ensure peace and stability; their Sailors will collectively embody the spirit and drive to accomplish the tasks at hand–no matter the cost. Just like their ship’s namesakes.
This series returns in a few weeks as the Surface Navy recognizes the remainder of the Fleet’s Medal of Honor namesakes. Until then please visit our blog weekly to enjoy other great topics surrounding our U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces.