GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) became the second naval submarine in history to receive the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation May 7 for its role in tracking drug runners and helping to keep illegal drugs off the nation's street.
The Groton-based submarine earned the award for its part in counter-drug operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South from February 20 to April 17 last year.
"I had no imaginable idea that this is what we'd be doing," said Master Chief Sonar Technician Bob Crossno, the Chief of the Boat for Hawaii. "We're not doing the stuff we did in the Cold War or World War II. With our advanced technologies, we can interact with other fleets and other services to support maritime security operations."
According to the citation read during the award presentation, however, the crew demonstrated "highly professional tracking of suspected drug traffickers and aggressively gathered intelligence on shipping throughout the area of operations... (which) directly aided in the interdiction of various drug-laden vessels, seizing large quantities of cocaine and detaining multiple narcotics smugglers."
In addition, Hawaii was part of a "complex, covert surveillance network involving Navy and Coast Guard surface, sub-surface and air assets along with other coalition assets" in this counter-drug effort.
"We had the opportunity to work as part of a joint task force which is a unique experience for a crew. It's an excellent opportunity to go down and see the wide range of assets the US brings to bear along with working with our Coalition countries against drug trafficking. It was just an awesome experience," said Herrington.
Rear Admiral J. Scott Burhoe, the 39th Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, was on hand of the presentation ceremony. He noted that the award honors services working together in less traditional but very important roles.
"We're talking more about stopping criminal activities. So, your work to help keep drugs off the streets keeps the nation safe," said Burhoe.
Navy Capt. Robert E. Clark II, commodore, Submarine Squadron 4, also honored the crew.
"I want to recognize the outstanding job you've done as a team. This is a very unique award because it reflects our national team. One team. One fight," said Clark.
Hawaii, the first commissioned vessel of its name, has a 132-member crew and can launch Tomahawk missiles from 12 vertical launch system tubes and Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes from four 21-inch torpedo tubes.
In addition, Hawaii can conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea forces. Other missions Hawaii can conduct include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, special forces delivery and support, and mine delivery and minefield mapping. With enhanced communications connectivity, Hawaii also can provide important battle group and joint task force support, with full integration into carrier battle group operations.
Virginia-class submarines surpass the performance of any current projected threat submarine, ensuring U.S. undersea dominance well into the next century.
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.