PONCE, Puerto Rico –
Along with the “Valkyries” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Detachment 8 and embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 403 Billings will support Joint Interagency Task Force South's mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Operations will also include bilateral exercises and exchanges with partner nations, demonstrating interoperability, and reinforcing the U.S. as the trusted maritime partner in the region.
Billings, manned by the ship’s Blue Crew, deployed from Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Dec. 15, 2021 to U.S. 4th Fleet. After completing a four-month patrol, the ship arrived in Ponce on April 12 to conduct a planned maintenance availability (PMAV), continuous maintenance availability (CMAV), and crew swap.
Gold Crew arrived on the ship April 17, and began working with Blue Crew to complete operational and maintenance checks, inspections, and preparations to take charge of the hull.
The Gold Crew officially took over the hull on April 22 to complete the CMAV and conduct preparations to take the ship back to sea. This marks the first East Coast Freedom-variant LCS to turn over the hull outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS).
“Gold Crew is excited and ready to be back at sea,” said Cmdr. Brett Seeley, commanding officer of Billings. “The Blue Crew completed their maiden deployment and handed over the keys to our “family” vehicle thus setting the stage for us to continue the good work they have been doing down in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility. We look forward to the opportunity to continue to build partnerships, and support whatever mission we are called upon to do.
Manned by over 100 Sailors, the Gold Crew will consist of a surface warfare mission-package equipment load out, a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment (LEDET), and an aviation detachment, who will operate the embarked MH-60S helicopter and MQ-8B Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
Deploying a LCS to the region aims to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to international cooperation and regional security. The ship’s size, speed, and agility make LCS ideal for narcotics interdictions, partner engagements and port access.
USS Billings (LCS 15) is operationally assigned to U.S. 4th Fleet and one of three littoral combat ships under Mine Division 22.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.