The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) returned to Mayport, Fla. Oct. 30, following its successful maiden deployment to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations. Billings (Gold crew), along with the “Snowmen” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Detachment 5, deployed June 30, to conduct U.S. Southern Command and Joint Interagency Task Force South’s counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea. During their deployment, Billings, with their embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), assisted in disrupting an estimated 1,597 kilograms of cocaine worth over an estimated street value of over $111.8 million and removed thirteen suspected drug traffickers from the narcotics trade.
When a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Aug. 14, 2021, Billings joined in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts as part of the Joint Force Maritime Component Command. Billings provided support as an afloat refueling base for Joint Task Force-Haiti aircraft and utilized her MH-60S Sea Hawk from HSC-28 to move personnel and transport life-saving aid to remote areas in need. Billings conducted three bilateral maritime exercises with Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic to strengthen partnerships and build interoperability between forces. During a port visit to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the ship hosted a reception onboard, welcoming the President of the Dominican Republic, His Excellency Mr. Luis Rodolfo Abinader, Vice President of the Dominican Republic Raquel Peña, Chargé d’Affaires of U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo, Mr. Robert W. Thomas.
Upon arriving in U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations, Billings also participated in a surface training exercise with USS Sioux City (LCS 11) and USS Wichita (LCS 13), marking the first time three Freedom-variant LCS ships have been deployed and operating together at the same time. Throughout the deployment, Billings partnered with other U.S. Navy warships, as well as numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, are all playing a role in counter-drug operations.
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. The U.S. Fourth Fleet is a United States Navy numbered fleet. It is the Naval Component Command of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). The Fourth Fleet is headquartered at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida. It is responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans around Central and South America.