PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Friends and families gathered at the submarine piers on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to welcome home the crew of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Houston (SSN 713) as she returned to Pearl Harbor from a deployment to the Western Pacific Region, Feb. 14.
"After a change of homeport and an arduous shipyard period, the crew of Houston was eager to get their submarine back overseas into the Western Pacific area of operations and contribute to national defense," said Cmdr. Paul Davis, Houston's commanding officer. "I am very proud of the way these men have handled themselves throughout our seven months, meeting every challenge with professionalism and pride."
Houston conducted a variety of operations and theater security exercises throughout the deployment, contributing to the nation's strategic posture in the region.
Houston also strengthened relationships with South Korea through exercises with the Royal Korean Navy submarine Choi Moo Sun and the USS George Washington carrier strike group.
"They represented our nation well throughout the deployment, and I also am thankful for the tremendous support we have enjoyed from the spouses and family members. Their support, encouragement and sacrifice enabled our successful deployment," said Davis.
During the deployment, 33 enlisted submariners achieved their submarine qualification and are now entitled to wear the enlisted submarine warfare insignia.
Davis said a majority of the crew also completed advanced qualifications which are the building blocks for future operations, ensuring Houston's performance will remain strong.
"With about 60 percent of the crew making their first Western Pacific deployment, invaluable training and experience were obtained," said Houston's Chief of the Boat, Senior Chief Machinist's Mate Jay Cherland.
Cherland added, "But we couldn't do it without the love and support of those we left behind. My hat goes off to our command ombudsman, Consuela Rodriguez and the Family Readiness Group. They really helped take care of the command families."
One Sailor had an extra special homecoming waiting for him. Sonar Technician Submarines 1st Class Fred Leonard arrived to meet his new daughter, born Sept. 3, while the boat was under way.
"I've been looking forward to holding my daughter for five months; it's great that it's finally a reality," said Leonard.
"He's the best Valentine's gift ever!" said Eileen Ward, spouse of Houston Sailor Lt. j.g. Coleman Ward. "I'm overwhelmed, elated, and excited! We're expecting our first child, and I'm just so excited to have him home so we can move forward and enjoy Hawaii together as a family again!"
With over 46,000 nautical miles steamed and participation in multinational exercises, Houston worked to enhance strong relationships in the region.
Additionally, during their seven months away from Pearl Harbor, the crew enjoyed several memorable port visits including Guam and Singapore.
Houston is the fourth U.S. Navy vessel named in honor of the city of Houston, Texas. She is a Los Angeles-class submarine, 360 feet long and displacing 6,900 tons. She can be fitted with Mk-48 torpedoes and Tomahawk missiles.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/subpac/.