KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) returned to its homeport of Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay April 29, following a 15-month deployment in both Central and European Command areas of responsibility.
During the deployment, the crew partnered with U.S., joint and coalition forces in support of U.N. Security Council resolution 1973, which authorized all necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians under threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone. Florida was ordered to deploy in theater and remain submerged and undetected until further notice.
As tensions in Libya escalated, the order to use military forces in graduated and sequenced strike operations against the government of Libya was given by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Operation Odyssey Dawn was executed.
During the operation, Florida launched more than 90 Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAM). The strike marked the first time a guided-missile submarine launched Tomahawks in conflict.
"Submarines proved their worth by giving us maximum flexibility in Operation Odyssey Dawn. They provided unprecedented intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and terrific firepower, all from the sea. They are critical to winning any war against any adversary today and tomorrow," said Vice Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet and maritime component commander for Operation Odyssey Dawn.
Capt. Thomas Calabrese, Florida (Gold) commanding officer, said he was extremely proud of the way his crew performed during the deployment and Operation Odyssey Dawn.
"My crew displayed their spirit and talents while meeting all challenges head-on," said Calabrese. "My chiefs were always out and about certifying the crew's readiness and my officers put the ship in the right place at the right time to execute assigned tasking."
Chief Fire Control Technician(SS) Lee Taylor, Florida strike fire control division leading chief petty officer, said his team executed their mission flawlessly despite exhaustion and other adversities.
"The fantastic performance of my men, fighting through fatigue, and fog of war is something I will never forget," said Taylor. "They were the ones at the consoles, doing the job, executing as we were tasked. I could see their professionalism and determination in their faces. Capable, ready, willing and, in the end, flawless."
"Making history with the Florida is something that I'll remember forever," said Missile Technician 2nd Class(SS) Tyler Schneider, Florida missile division. "It also gives me a great sense of pride knowing that I directly helped to save thousands of lives in Libya. As a missile technician, the feeling of accomplishment that my division and I felt will be hard to replace for the rest of my life."
Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, commander, Submarine Group 10, felt the operation proved the ship's conversion nearly five years ago was a prime example of how proactive the Department of the Navy is in cost-efficiency.
"It is amazing to think about the conversion of Florida from a strategic deterrent to a special operations and guided-missile submarine," said Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, commander, Submarine Group Ten. "[It's] a tremendous adaptation to the changing strategic environment. Her success, which culminated in her superb support to Operation Odyssey Dawn, certainly validates the decision made almost ten years ago to convert the first four Ohio-class submarines rather than decommission them."
Vice Adm. John M. Richardson, commander, Submarine Forces, also commented on the role submarines play in maritime security operations around the globe.
"The SSGN plays a key role in global undersea war fighting," said Richardson. "By virtue of their concealment and endurance, the SSGN platform forces our adversaries to consider that they could be operating almost anywhere at any time. The sensor suite on the boat allows the captain to gather information and intelligence in situ, passing that back to the commander and responding on the spot. When you combine all that with the tremendous combat capability the boat brings - land attack missiles, special forces, torpedoes - that's a lot of bets the enemy has to cover down on."
Florida was converted from a trident ballistic-missile submarine in May 2006. The SSGN conversion program produced transformational capability on a time-compressed schedule and with a drastically lower price tag. Instead of designing an entire new platform to perform the same mission capabilities, the conversion program reduced the cost to the Department of Defense by roughly $1 billion per ship.
The sixth U.S. Navy ship named for the 27th state offers a tremendous range of options to operational commanders armed with multiple land attack missiles, special operating forces and torpedoes.
More than 250 family members, friends and media greeted the Gold crew on the pier.
"I'm so proud of my husband and all of the other Sailors on the boat for what they accomplished," said Karrin Langley, a Florida (Gold) family member. "It was awesome for them to be the first sub in their class to participate in a mission like this."
Florida is scheduled to begin its maintenance cycle while in homeport.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Group 10, visit www.navy.mil/local/csg10/.