Story by PO3 Marianne Guemo on 08/03/2019By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marianne Guemo, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East Detachment Southeast
KEY WEST, Fla. The U.S. Navy commissioned the USS Billings (LCS 15), the eighth Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, during a ceremony in Key West, Florida, Aug. 3.
Billings is the first ship in the U.S. Navy to be named after the largest city in Montana. She sails with the motto, "Big Sky over Troubled Waters."
"The citizens of Billings and the state of Montana will always be proud to call this ship their own," said Bill Cole, the mayor of Billings and the chairman of the ship's commissioning committee. "Wherever you sail, the people of Billings will always be with you and the Big Sky will always be over you."
"This privilege is not lost on me," said Cmdr. Nathan Rowan, commanding officer of Billings. "I am humbled by it and hope to exceed expectations in my remaining time with the Billings setting the tone for a safe, successful, and sustained legacy for this ship and all who will serve aboard her."
Billings has a crew of approximately 70 Sailors, and is designed to operate near the shore and in the open ocean. This provides cost-effective force flexibility and allows the Navy to strengthen allied partnerships.
"A warship and its crew is better when they are ambassadors, better when they put a hand outa hand of friendship, a hand of comfort, reassurance. But make no mistake, they can bring it. They've got power and they can fight," said Adm. Craig S. Faller, Commander, U.S. Southern Command. "Billings is fast. It's lethal. It can fight, and so can its crew."
Rowan said Billings has been designated as a mine counter-measures platform.
"We have already begun developing missions and protocols that future ships will conduct and adhere to," said Rowan.
Billings' sponsor, Sharla Tester, married to Montana Sen. Jon Tester, christened the ship on July 1, 2017, and, during the ceremony, welcomed the families of the ship's crew to join her to give the traditional order: "Man our ship and bring her to life."
The Sailors who brought the Navy's newest ship to life will enjoy the latest in design and technology maximize lethality without sacrificing the needs of the crew.
"Billings is the newest in mine countermeasures," said Mineman Seaman Kevin Lee Carpenter. "This ship is bigger, there's more space, more livable conditions, and better berthing spaces."
Billings will be homeported in Naval Station Mayport, Florida.