The U.S. Navy welcomed its newest littoral combat ship into service on Saturday, in a ceremony that garnered a crowd of nearly 2,500 people at the Port of Galveston, in Texas.

The USS Gabrielle Giffords marks a significant departure from previous generations of surface combat ships employed by the U.S. Navy.  While a ship this size would normally require a crew of 300 or more, the Gabrielle Giffords relies heavily on advanced technologies and automation, resulting in a crew requirement of only 73.  These changes require a dramatic learning curve, as the crew of the Gabrielle Giffords will be breaking new ground in how the U.S. Navy operates its fleet of littoral combat ships with no previous experiences to pull from.

“It’s not easy being an LCS sailor,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Dobrinin, a gunner’s mate. “We have to wear so many hats and be trained on systems and duties outside of our normal job specialty due to the small crew size. Every enlisted sailor here volunteered for the program and we’re excited to serve on USS Gabrielle Giffords.”

The command staff of the Gabrielle Giffords are aware of the challenges faced by their crew.  Because the 3,200 ton warship is part of a new generation of vessels, and is only the ninth to be built, the crew will have their work cut out for them.