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Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic

USS Billings Sailors Visit Namesake City

by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Lau, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East, Detachment Southeast
08 July 2021

210702-N-GF955-1315

BILLINGS, Mont. (July 03, 2021) Commander Jeffrey Gerring, executive officer of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) hands out gifts during a parade in Billings, Mont., July 03, 2021.  Crew members are visiting the ship’s namesake city to participate in a variety of community events. USS Billings (LCS 15) is homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Lau/Released)
SLIDESHOW | 2 images | 210703-N-GF955-1315 210702-N-GF955-1315 BILLINGS, Mont. (July 03, 2021) Commander Jeffrey Gerring, executive officer of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) hands out gifts during a parade in Billings, Mont., July 03, 2021. Crew members are visiting the ship’s namesake city to participate in a variety of community events. USS Billings (LCS 15) is homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Lau/Released)

Sailors assigned to the Freedom-variant, littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) visited their namesake city July 1-6 to take part in festive, Independence Day events and tour the scenic surroundings. 
 
During the visit, crew members represented their ship and the Navy while visiting with local citizens, participating in holiday events and touring local attractions. Soon after arrival, Billings Mayor Bill Cole, who is also chairman of the USS Billings commissioning committee, took the crew to get cowboy hats.
 
“When we flew in I was like, ‘This is it.’ Before we even did the Beartooth Pass drive, I was like, ‘Yep, this is the place for me. This is going to be home,’” said Mineman 1st Class Jesse Silcox.
 
“You’re supposed to join the Navy and see all of the coasts, not mostly inland. But this was absolutely wonderful," said Silcox. “This is the furthest I’ve been from the ocean in 11 years."
 
The crew honored POW/MIA service members by unveiling a commemorative plaque and seat at the Dehler Park baseball stadium, home of the Billings Mustangs, where five Sailors threw out a first pitch.
 
“Anytime we get an opportunity to recognize those who have gone before us, it's a special opportunity," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Gerring, USS Billings executive officer. "Not all of our Sailors and Marines come back from the missions they go on. Being able to come out here and represent them and give our support for them is really special to us.”
 
The visiting Sailors traveled up the scenic, snowy elevations of Beartooth Pass, taking in the twists and curves of the mountains. They came from sea level in Mayport, Fla., where their ship is homeported, to the “Top of the World,” above the 10,000 foot mark.  In addition, they participated in a parade in the town of Red Lodge, then took in a rodeo.
 
A land-locked state, Montana’s naval presence is almost non-existent. The Sailor’s visit piqued the curiosity of locals prompting them to stop and notice the crew in their dress white uniforms.
 
"We were laughing about it because as we walk around Florida, everybody is used to the Navy down there. Nobody really pays any attention to us,” observed Gerring. “But when we went to the Billings Mustangs game, and when we walked back to our hotel, cars were honking their horns the whole way back, rolling down their windows and yelling, ‘Thank you for your service!’”
 
Gerring previously served as commanding officer of the Naval Operations Support Center, in Billings; he reflected on the time he spent living there and spoke fondly about his return.
 
“Everybody feels like we’ve just been really appreciated,” said Gerring. “It’s really special. The people of Billings and Montana are really hard-working, humble people. You really feel their patriotism when you’re here. It’s an amazing experience.
 
"My wife's here with me and we're kind of driving around, seeing all our local haunts. To be able to come back to the city and see it again is amazing. The people here are warm and friendly and probably the most hospitable, down-to-earth people I've ever met in my life, so it's really great to be here."
 
USS Billings was commissioned Aug. 3, 2019, in Key West, Fla. 
 
LCS class ships allow the Navy to strengthen its partnership with other navies and coast guards. A fast, agile, high-technology surface combatant, Billings serves as a platform for launch and recovery of manned and unmanned vehicles. LCSs perform maritime security operations, theater security cooperation engagements, and freedom of navigation patrols, keeping open critical maritime commerce routes. They are able to patrol the littorals and access ports where other ships may be unable.


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