PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Hawaii (SSN 776), the first Virginia-class submarine to be homeported in the Pacific, arrived July 23 to a warm local style welcome that reflected Hawaii's diverse cultural heritage at the submarine piers at Naval Station Pearl Harbor.
The state's namesake submarine has made Hawaii its home during the 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commemoration activities.
More than 200 people took advantage of the opportunity to view USS Hawaii from the Ford Island seaplane ramp as the submarine sailed into Pearl Harbor, and many more lined the banks of the naval station near Hospital Point and along Hickam Air Force Base. Guest of honor was the ship's sponsor, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, who briefly boarded USS Hawaii via a small boat prior to the ceremony to greet the crew and raise the Hawaii State Flag aboard the namesake submarine.
At the Sierra Nine pier next to Submarine Force Pacific headquarters, family members of the crew and invited guests enjoyed the ceremony preceding the arrival, which featured a Hawaii Air National Guard flyover and participation by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, the Kamehameha Alumni Glee Club, Halau Hula Olana Ai performing a hula, Kahuna Pule Ganotise providing a traditional Hawaiian blessing and a haka by Pa Ku'i a Lua. Once the brow was across, the crew debarked into the arms of their loved ones, who had not seen the crew since USS Hawaii's departure from Groton, Conn., in May.
Shortly after the ceremony, families and crew of USS Hawaii were treated to a reception, hosted by the Navy League of the United States Honolulu Council at historic Lockwood Hall aboard the naval station. Danny Kaleikini sang the National Anthem and Hawai'i Pono'i.
"Today is a very important beginning for the people of Hawaii, the crew of the fine submarine USS Hawaii, the submarine force, and the U.S. Pacific Fleet," said Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny, commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
"We recognize that without the support of the great people of the state of Hawaii, we cannot succeed day in and day out with the mission our country asks us to do."
"Officially today, I welcome you and your families as members of our ohana," said Lingle. "I am honored to serve as this ship's sponsor, and I have been with you every step of your journey home. Today you start a new tradition, while building a more secure future for our country."
"I know I speak for the officers and crew of the USS Hawaii, when I say, 'wow!'" said Cmdr. Edward Herrington, the submarine's commanding officer. "I felt a little like a rock star today. All the people on the shoreline cheering you along, the governor coming out on the boat and the fly over; it was fantastic."
Measuring 377 feet long, weighing 7,800 tons when submerged and with a complement of more than 130 crew members, Hawaii is one of the Navy's newest and most technologically sophisticated submarines.
The state-of-the-art submarine is capable of supporting a multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare.
Commissioned May 5, 2007, Hawaii was the third Virginia-class attack submarine constructed and the first submarine to be named after the 50th state. During her maiden deployment, USS Hawaii became only the second Naval submarine in history to receive the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Citation for her efforts in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South counter-drug operations.
Recognizing the importance of the Asia-Pacific region and the increased threat posed by the proliferation of submarines in the Pacific, the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review mandated that 60 percent of the U.S. Navy's submarines be homeported in the Pacific by the end of 2010.
USS Hawaii joins five Los Angeles-class submarines assigned to Pearl Harbor-based Submarine Squadron 1, commanded by Capt. Lee Hankins. In addition to the USS Hawaii, the Virginia-class submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) will transfer from Groton, Conn., to Submarine Squadron 1 this fall, and Los Angeles-class USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) will transfer from Groton, Conn., to Submarine Squadron 11 in San Diego later this summer. By the end of 2009, 31 of the U.S. Navy's 53 fast attack submarines will be homeported in the Pacific, with 18 of those 31 home ported in Pearl Harbor. COMSUBPAC officially announced the impending arrival of Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) to Pearl Harbor in December 2008.
For more news from Commander Submarine Force Pacific Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/subpac.