Lewisburg, Tenn. native serves aboard USS Somerset

Friday, August 1, 2014
Petty Officer 1st Class William M. Hickman is a fire controlman aboard the San Diego-based ship. Photo submitted

SAN DIEGO -- A 2000 Marshall County High School graduate and Lewisburg, Tenn., native is serving aboard USS Somerset (LPD 25), one of the world's most modern, networked, survivable, and transformational platforms.

Petty Officer 1st Class William M. Hickman is a fire controlman aboard the San Diego-based ship, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, that is longer than 2 football fields long at nearly 684 feet long. The ship is 105 feet wide and weighs more than 25,000 tons. Four diesel engines can push the ship through the water at more than 24 mph. Like her sister ships, USS New York and Arlington, USS Somerset is named in commemoration of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The name honors the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 whose actions prevented terrorist hijackers from reaching their intended target, forcing the airplane to crash near Shanksville, Somerset County, Pa. Approximately 22 tons of steel from a crane that stood near Flight 93′s crash site was used to construct Somerset's bow stem, embodying the strength and determination of the people of the United States: to recover, to rally, to take the fight to the enemy.

As a 32 year-old with numerous responsibilities, Hickman said he is learning about himself as a leader, Sailor and a person. He added that his time in the Navy has been exciting and full of benefits. "The Navy gives you the opportunity to take on responsibilities regardless of your age," said Hickman. "The Navy pushes you to succeed and do things you had no idea you were capable of."

He also said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the Somerset's 361-member crew, protecting America on the world's oceans. "Serving on this ship is a great honor," Hickman explained. "The people on flight 93 stood up and fought back and that is what we embody, standing up for what you believe to be right regardless of the cost."

Sailors' jobs are highly varied aboard USS Somerset. Approximately 28 officers, 333 enlisted men and women and 3 Marines make up the ship's company, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly -- this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the engines. Another 700-800 or so form the Embarked Landing Force, the Marines and their equipment.

"A ship is but a steel vessel, it is the crew that brings a ship to life. USS Somerset is truly a fine warship and this crew that mans her is second to none. The Sailors and Marines of Somerset have been working diligently to prepare this war ship. Through our service in the United States Navy, we will strive to honor those who have sacrificed so much to preserve the freedoms we cherish today," said Capt. Thomas L. Dearborn, the ship's commanding officer.

"For an officer in the United States Navy to be entrusted with the awesome responsibility of command is humbling. It is truly an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve as USS Somerset's first commanding officer. Every day, I feel an unparalleled sense of pride working alongside the nation's finest Sailors and Marines."

Amphibious transport dock ships are warships that embark, transport, and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions. They are used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies by embarked air cushion (LCAC) or conventional landing craft and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles (EFV) or Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV) augmented by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft (MV 22). These ships support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy's most versatile combat ships, Hickman and other USS Somerset sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

"It's been a great experience," said Hickman. "The Navy has given me the opportunity to visit 15 countries and serve with great people from all walks of life."