---- — LONDONDERRY — A Londonderry native is making waves as one of only 91 sailors serving aboard the U.S. Navy’s first littoral combat ship.
Engineman 1st Class Robert Carter, a 2001 Londonderry High School graduate, is currently serving aboard the USS Freedom, a technologically advanced class of ship designed to operate in near shore, or littoral, environments.
The ship is fast, agile and designed to employ missions including surfaces warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.
The combat ship is now deployed to Southeast Asia, having left for that maiden voyage on March 1.
Carter joined the Navy in 2002 and has been stationed on minesweepers all over the world, from Japan to Bahrain.
He had the experience and advanced knowledge of ship operations, including propulsion systems, firefighting efforts, power and engines, making his move to the Freedom an easy transition.
“Coming to the ship, I already had seven years experience with the equipment on board,” Carter said. “I was, and still am, a vital entity to the engineering crew.”
The ship is designed to be very agile, quick and easy to steer, he said. The engineering setup on board is unique to the Navy and the only ship to combine a diesel engine with a gas turbine engine that contributes to Freedom’s maneuverability in more shallow waters.
Carter also likes the ship’s intimate, smaller size.
A minesweeper like the Freedom typically has fewer than 90 sailors on board. The Freedom has a core crew of about 40 members. Carter is one of a dozen engineers on board.
“Small communities are, in my opinion, a lot better,” Carter said. “You get to learn a lot more outside your rate and be more proficient at your job, becoming the ultimate hybrid sailor.”
A smaller crew also gives crew members more opportunities to do more tasks and learn more fields, making the deployment time move along much faster, he said.
While aboard Freedom, Carter has been studying and taking college courses toward a degree in marine engineering.
Carter has spent most of his Navy career traveling overseas but plans to get married soon.
He is the son of Robert G. and Debbie Carter of Londonderry.