The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Oakland (LCS 24) arrived at its San Diego homeport Jan. 19, following an eighteen-month deployment.
“The USS Oakland crews showcased their grit, resiliency, and self-sufficiency in accomplishing all missions by executing a dynamic schedule with significant operational tasking,” said Capt. Marc Crawford, commodore for Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 1. “Both crews demonstrated the unique value that LCS brings to the fleet when working with our Allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific. We are extremely proud of Oakland’s accomplishments and both crews should take great pride in all of their achievements.”
While deployed, Oakland participated in several multi-national exercises including Bangladesh International Fleet Review 2022, Oceania Maritime Support Initiative 2022, Croix Du Sud 2023, Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023, Integrated Battle Problem 23.2, and Exercise Autonomous Warrior 2023.
“It was a true honor leading and deploying with the Oakland Blue crew,” said Cmdr. John Van Wagoner, commanding officer of the Oakland Blue crew. “Our team answered the nation’s call on time, on demand, every time, and we are proud of our deployed time and service.”
The Bangladesh Navy hosted International Fleet Review 2022, which included over 60 vessels and 28 nations. Oakland participated in maritime and cultural exchanges as well as bilateral meetings organized by the Bangladesh Navy.
During Oceania Maritime Support Initiative 2022, Oakland embarked a U.S. Coast Guard tactical law enforcement team, a specialized force that carries out maritime interdiction, security and counter narcotics operations. Oceania Maritime Support Initiative is a Secretary of Defense program that leverages Department of Defense assets transiting the region to improve maritime security and maritime domain awareness, ultimately supporting regional stability and partnerships in Oceania.
Croix Du Sud 2023, in Noumea, New Caledonia, included more than 3,000 service members from 14 allied and partner nations. The exercise, organized and hosted by the French Combined Joint Task Force, served as a certification event with training objectives focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, non-combatant evacuation operations and security operations specifically designed to strengthen coordination in the event of a disaster or security crisis in the region.
“Whether it was Japan, France, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, or other partners, Oakland was there — side by side with them — working to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Cmdr. Andrew Laidler, commanding officer of the Oakland Gold crew.
During Integrated Battle Problem 23.2, Oakland served as afloat control unit for Unmanned Surface Vessel Division 1 unmanned surface vessels Ranger, Mariner, Seahawk, and Sea Hunter. Oakland also sailed alongside the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Mogami-class frigate JS Kumano (FFM 2).
As part of Exercise Autonomous Warrior 2023, Oakland also conducted joint flight operations with the Royal Australian Navy Squadron 816 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35. Autonomous Warrior is an annual exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Navy that invites military, government, and industry partners from different allied and partner nations to inform decisions related to autonomous and unmanned systems.
“During Oakland’s deployment, we had the privilege of conducting a proof of concept in which we led four unmanned surfaces vessels (USV) for a first-of-its-kind operation,” said Laidler. “Oakland and her four USVs safely traveled over 11,000 miles, the majority of which the USVs transited in remote or autonomous control mode, proving these concepts and capabilities will bolster our force, especially in contested theaters.”
Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 was hosted by Australia; Oakland along with 30,000 troops from 13 allied and partner nations participated in the exercise. Talisman Sabre is a biennial exercise designed to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific by strengthening partnerships and interoperability among allies.
“We developed relationships on both a professional and personal level, and our international friends know we stand firmly by them,” Laidler said.
Oakland also participated in a group sail alongside the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Kirisame (DD 104) and Royal Solomon Island Police Force patrol boat RSIPV Taro (06) in August of 2022.
“There are very few jobs that allow someone to see this many countries and truly have the opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture,” said Laidler. “Our Sailors are able to work on cutting edge technology, showcase their leadership abilities and travel the world, all while getting paid to do so. There aren’t many other jobs out there that provide that same combination of fulfillment.”
During deployment, Oakland conducted goodwill port visits with 10 partner and allied nations, including Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and Thailand.
“As the maiden deployment for both this ship and crew, it has been incredibly fulfilling,” said Laidler. “I could not have asked for a better group of warfighters and the crew could not be any more excited to return to San Diego and be home with family and friends.”
Oakland is a fast, optimally-manned, mission-tailored surface combatant that operates in near-shore and open-ocean environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. LCSs like Oakland integrate with joint, combined, manned and unmanned teams to support forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence missions around the globe.