POSTED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 6:08pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 6:10pm
SAN DIEGO — A 1997 Franklin High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a small crew working aboard one of the country’s most versatile combat ships.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Luke, an electronics technician, serves with Littoral Combat Ship Crew 101. The crew most recently served aboard the San Diego-based littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1), which returned in December from a nine-month deployment to Southeast Asia. The deployment directly supported the Asia-Pacific rebalance and allowed the Navy to capture lessons learned while working with partner navies and other U.S. Navy ships, which continued to help us integrate this essential ship into the fleet.
Luke is part of the 53-person crew, one of the two rotating crews, which allow the ship to be deployed more often without taxing one crew too much.
As a 35-year-old with numerous responsibilities, Luke is learning about himself as a sailor and a person. He is also getting a firsthand look at the high-speed, shallow draft multi-mission ship capable of operating independently or with an associated strike group. The littoral combat ship class is designed to defeat threats in coastal waters where increasingly capable submarines, mines, and swarming small craft operate. The USS Freedom is 388 feet long and 58 feet wide and weighs nearly 3,400 tons. Twin gas turbine engines push the ship through the water at more than 40 knots.
“The Navy provided a means to explore cultures I would not have had an opportunity to experience,” said Luke.
The path to becoming an LCS sailor is a long one. Following an 18-month training pipeline, sailors have to qualify on a simulator that is nearly identical to the ship. The purpose for such realistic training is because with such a small crew, it’s important for sailors to report nearly fully qualified for their jobs.
“I went to at least 16 different schools just for my LCS billet,” said Luke. “This did not include my A and C schools. All in all, I spent approximately seven years in school since I’ve been in the Navy.”
But more than just their primary job, Luke said it’s important for sailors to work together and do often do work outside their normal tasks.
As a member of the Navy’s first littoral combat chip, Luke and other Freedom sailors know they are building a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
“The littoral combat ship is the perfect platform for the Navy to meet the threats we face as we rebalance to the Pacific,” said Capt. Randy Garner, Commodore of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron (LCSRON) 1, based in San Diego. “I like to think of the LCS as a ‘pick-up truck’, capable of changing out mission packages as the situation warrants. Alongside speed and maneuverability, the flexibility of LCS is an advantage. The sailors assigned to them, whether crew or part of one of the mission package detachments, epitomize the 'can-do' spirit of LCS.”
Luke said it is an exciting time to be in the Navy, and serving aboard a first-of-its kind ship is something he never expected to be doing just a couple years ago.
“You're a jack of all trades,” said Luke. “I don't just do one job, I have around 12 jobs and the LCS helps hold me to a higher standard.”
Through innovative planning, the design of systems, and crew requirements, the LCS platform allows the fleet to increase forward presence and lower personnel costs than with other, larger ships manned with more sailors.