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News | April 22, 2022

USS Billings Blue Crew Returns Home after U.S. 4th Fleet Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aaron Lau

The Blue crew of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) returned home to Mayport, Fla., April 22, 2022, after completing a deployment to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

Billings Blue crew, along with the “Shadow Det” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Detachment 7, deployed from Naval Station Mayport on Dec. 15, 2021, in support of U.S. Southern Command and Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission which included counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean.
Throughout the deployment, Billings partnered with other U.S. Navy warships, the Royal Netherlands navy, as well as numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice Department and Homeland Security in the effort to combat transnational organized crime.
Billings, with embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 408, assisted in disrupting an estimated 1,900 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated street value of $134 million and removed two suspected drug traffickers from the narcotics trade.
“Billings and the Blue Crew were able to prove the immense capability of LCS’,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Gerring, commanding officer of Billings. “Not only did our crew make an incredible impact combatting transnational organized crime in the 4th Fleet area of responsibility, but we were also able to flex logistical supply chains in new ports, and reignite partnerships that were impacted by the pandemic. I could not be prouder to have the privilege to lead this team of Sailors downrange.”
Throughout the duration of its deployment, Billings travelled over 11,500 nautical miles and visited five different ports, including Cartagena, Colombia and Willemstad, Curaçao. Billings visit to these countries enabled the crew to engage with the local people, conduct military exchanges, and paved the way for more littoral combat ships to visit in the future.
“I think it’s one thing to engage in military to military operations, but being able to connect with people outside of the uniform really helped develop stronger ties and an overall better relationship,” said Mineman Seaman Apprentice Aizik Ramirez. “[In Colombia], we played soccer together, shared meals together, had good conversations together and they showed us around their amazing city. This was my first deployment and I will never forget my time there.”
Billings’ other at-sea engagements included conducting deck landing qualifications (DLQs) with Joint Task Force-Bravo, and participating in a bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Colombian navy to strengthen partnerships and build interoperability between forces.
Billings pulled into Ponce, Puerto Rico on April 12 and conducted a crew swap/exchange of command, where the Blue and Gold Crews turned over the hull with each other. The ship will remain in Ponce to complete a planned maintenance availability (PMAV) and a continuous maintenance availability (CMAV), while the Blue Crew returns home.
This marks the first time an East Coast Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) has conducted a turnover outside the continental U.S., demonstrating the ability to do so for other East Coast LCS’ in the future.
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.
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