By MC3 Michael Lopez
NPASE Detachment Southeast
Sailors from Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Crew 103 aboard the newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Detroit (LCS 7) must be jack-of-all-trades to operate the flexibility of the Navy's newest ship.
These Sailors include Culinary Specialist Chief Matthew Nordquest, who is the galley leading chief petty officer, helicopter control officer, a search and rescue swimmer and the ships only qualified barber.
"I think it's good for people to do challenging things like this because it gets you out of a typical routine," said Nordquest. "Most of us here know that we can do more than the average Sailor, and we only know this because we were average Sailors before this."
LCS Crew 103's core crew consists of 54 Sailors with an additional 20 to 25 Sailors who come aboard as part of a mission package for deployments. These mission packages include surface warfare, mine countermeasure and anti-submarine warfare which can be configured to meet the needs of the ship's current objective.
Prior to setting foot on an LCS, Nordquest had no experience on a surface ship. His career leading up to LCS Crew 103 consisted of two submarine tours and one tour as a flag cook at the Pentagon for the Secretary of the Navy.
"This platform is a little bit like a submarine in the sense that everyone needs to do more than one job and the schedule is always shifting," he said. "But I do even more widespread jobs on this ship than I did on submarines."
Norquest wasn't forced into these roles he currently occupies, but it was something he wanted to do to help out his crew.
"I became a helicopter control officer because there was only one person doing the job," he said. "I know it could get miserable being up there for hours without food or a break, and imagine if he got hurt or something; someone's got to be able to relieve him."
Taking on these extra roles calls for a Sailor to be ready to get out of their comfort zone and be readily available to do things quite differently from some of their counterparts on larger platforms.
"I could start my day in the galley cooking and before I know it, as the helicopter control officer, I have to leave to go to flight quarters to land the helicopters," he said. "Then I could go back to cooking and even go down to launch the rigid-hulled inflatable boats for visit, board, search and seizure drills after that. It can be crazy like that every day on deployment."
Fire Controlman 1st Class Brett Sanders, another Sailor assigned to LCS Crew 103, typically works on combat system maintenance but finds himself participating in evolutions that aren't always typical for Sailors in his rating.
"I came from an aircraft carrier before this where all of my collateral duties were within my division," said Sanders. "But here, you've got to be flexible. For instance, I normally participate in sea and anchor detail which is something that's usually a boatswain's mate's job."
Sanders and Nordquest said that because of the ambition of Sailors aboard USS Detroit, their crew can perform many of the same missions as other ships but with less people. LCS Sailors need to be ready to go the extra mile at any time.
"You can't try to sit back here," said Sanders. "On this ship you've got to be ready to go all the time. You could be asked to do something different every day, so you're helping yourself and your crew if you're willing to be flexible."
Along with breaking down comfort barriers, many Sailors have become accustomed to having a smaller crew size. There are a multitude of responsibilities that can bring out a tight bond and comradery amongst the LCS Sailors.
"The thing about this platform is that we're more of a family than anything," said Nordquest. "You could probably line up the entire crew and I would know every Sailor's name. Everyone knows each other and everyone goes out of their way to help out."
Detroit is the 4th and newest LCS in its class and designed to operate in littoral seas and shallow water to counter mines, submarines, and fast surface craft threats in coastal regions.