St. Rose soldier joins an elite crew

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE – A St. Rose native is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a small crew working aboard one of the country’s most versatile combat ships.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Burke, a boatswain’s mate, serves aboard the San Diego-based littoral combat ship USS Independence. Burke, a 2008 Archbishop Rummel High School graduate, is part of the ship’s 53-person crew.

As a 24-year-old with numerous responsibilities, Burke is getting a firsthand look at the high-speed, shallow draft multi-mission ship capable of operating independently or with an associated strike group.

The littoral combat ship class is designed to defeat threats in coastal waters where increasingly capable submarines, mines and swarming small craft operate. The USS Independence is 419 feet long, 104 feet wide and weighs nearly 3,100 tons. Twin gas turbine engines push the LCS through the water at more than 40 knots.

“You get to see the world,” said Burke. “You also get more of a broad spectrum of the world to help you understand how things work on a global scale.”

The path to becoming an LCS sailor is a long one. Following an 18-month training pipeline, sailors have to qualify on a simulator that is nearly identical to the ship. The purpose for such realistic training is because with such a small crew, it’s important for sailors to report nearly fully qualified for their jobs.

“I had already finished all my basic schools for my rate,” said Burke. “I also attended supervisor schools, safety petty officer and forklift driver school.”

Burke added he is still going through more schools to get even more training.

As a member of the Navy’s first LCS, Burke and other Independence sailors know they are building a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“The littoral combat ship is the perfect platform for the Navy to meet the threats we face as we rebalance to the Pacific,” said Capt. Randy Garner, commodore of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 1, based in San Diego. “The sailors assigned to them, whether crew or part of one of the mission package detachments, epitomize the ‘can-do’ spirit of LCS.”

Burke said serving aboard a first-of-its kind ship is something he never expected to be doing just a couple years ago.