GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- A few hundred families, friends and Navy personnel welcomed home USS Missouri (SSN 780) at Naval Submarine Base New London, Dec. 20, after the Virginia-class attack submarine completed its first overseas deployment.
Missouri was one of eight East Coast-based attack submarines that departed in 2013 for a regularly scheduled six-month cruise.
"These submarines all performed superbly on mission," said Rear Adm. Ken Perry, the commander responsible for attack subs in Groton and Norfolk, Va. "I'm proud of our teammates and shipmates at Submarine Group 2 and the many organizations that support our efforts to deliver ready submarines."
Led by Commanding Officer Cmdr. Mike Luckett, Missouri's crew of more than 130 Sailors returned home just in time for the holidays.
"Missouri's performance on her inaugural deployment was exemplary, an accomplishment made even more impressive considering over 70 percent of the crew was experiencing deployment for the first time," said Luckett.
Crew members arrived with teddy bears, flowers, and candy canes for waiting loved ones. However, families weren't looking for the extra goodies. They were simply thrilled to have the Sailors home safely.
"Myself, the ombudsman and the wives are just really excited to welcome them home," said Natasha Luckett, the commanding officer's wife. "I'm extremely proud of my husband and the crew."
The submarine departed Groton and headed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations June 18. It made port calls to Haakonsvern, Norway; Faslane, Scotland; and Portsmouth, England.
Missouri's ombudsman Cheryl Gaydos recalled how she felt when the submarine left Groton.
"I did tear up when the boat left," she said. "We all felt a bit anxious about how we were going to keep things afloat here at home and keep ourselves sane. I knew it was going to be hard."
As days became weeks and weeks became months, Gaydos said she filled her time with house chores, paying bills, working, and taking care of her two dogs - a 25-pound corgi and 65-pound hound. She also focused on staying strong for other families.
"A lot of us really became close friends during this whole thing and helped each other. Missouri crewmembers are coming home to stronger wives," she said.
Three babies were born while their fathers were at sea, including one born just five days before Missouri returned.
Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Arrell Cavanaugh, a 22-year-old crewmember from Michigan, met his baby girl Ea Christine Cavanaugh for the first time. Ea was born Dec. 15 at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces.
"I'm so excited because this is his little girl," said Genevieve Cavanaugh, the proud mother and wife. "It was hard for my husband because he wasn't there for the birth, but I'm just so excited to have him home."
The couple had always suspected Genevieve would one day give birth while her husband was deployed. When they married in 2010, they immediately settled on names for kids they planned to have in the future.
Ea is their second child. They also have a 16-month-old son who has his dad's first name.
Three Submarine Group 2 boats remain on deployment during the holidays, including USS Scranton (SSN 756) based in Norfolk, as well as USS Virginia (SSN 774) and USS San Juan (SSN 751) from Groton.
Perry said these submarines "remain on station standing the watch so that we can enjoy a peaceful and safe holiday here back home in the States."
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.