Rifle’s Samantha Blea serves on combat ships
SAN DIEGO – A 2007 Rifle High School graduate and Rifle native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard one of the country’s most versatile combat ships.
Lt. j.g. Samantha Blea is an electronic materials officer and a member of Crew 204, the “Royal Punch,” which serves aboard the Independence variant of littoral combat ships based in San Diego.
Blea is part of a 53-person crew, one of several crews that rotate between USS Independence and USS Coronado, as part of a unique crewing concept called “3-2-1,” where three crews serve aboard two different littoral combat ships, one of which is deployed. This concept allows the ships to spend more time forward deployed without overtaxing the crew.
As a 26-year-old with numerous responsibilities, Blea is getting a firsthand look at the combat ships and their ability to deliver a lethal punch while operating in coastal regions as well as on open oceans.
Designed to defeat threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft, the USS Independence is 419 feet long and 104 feet wide and weighs nearly 3,100 tons fully loaded. Twin gas turbine engines push the ship through the water at more than 40 knots.
“I am now on my second ship and have traveled around the world to eight different countries. I’ve worked with electronics warfare and weapons systems and will be shifting toward information professional including cyber and network security,” Blea said.
The path to becoming an LCS sailor is a long one. Following an 18-month training pipeline, sailors must qualify on a simulator that is nearly identical to the ship.
“I had to become qualified to drive the ship, which included precision navigation and tactical maneuvering,” Blea said.
As a crew member aboard one of the Navy’s newest ships, Blea said she knows she and her crewmates are building a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
Blea said it’s an exciting time to be in the Navy, but it’s not an easy path to take.
“I really enjoy the people. My sailors keep me wanting to get up each day and come to work. The amount of work that they are able to complete continues to amaze me,” said Blea.
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Students from Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools were asked Friday to transition to online learning and quarantine for 10 days, Garfield County District Re-2 announced.