GROTON, Conn (NNS) -- USS California (SSN 781) returned from a regularly-scheduled, six-month deployment to a pier full of loved ones who had come out on a picturesque first day of fall to welcome the boat and her crew home, Friday, Sept. 21.
The 8th ship in the Virginia Class of nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarines, under the command of Cmdr. Dave Payne, California returned to its homeport of Naval Submarine Base, New London following a deployment to the European Command Area of Responsibility where they executed the Chief of Naval Operations Maritime Strategy in supporting national security interests and Maritime Security Operations.
“The entire California family performed admirably throughout our deployment to U.S. Sixth Fleet,” said Payne, commanding officer, USS California (SSN 781). “These Sailors, supported by exceptional families, demonstrated the awesome flexibility and power of our nation’s finest warship.”
In accordance with long standing U.S. Navy tradition, Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) First Class Adam Pike shared the first kiss with his wife Stephanie; while Chief Yeoman Scott Thomaszewski shared the first hug with his wife, Kristy, and their children, Marian (age 5), Marcus (age 9), and Madilyn (age 12).
“We are really excited to see my husband and I feel extremely lucky to be the first one able to kiss my spouse,” said Stephanie Pike, who was watching the lines be tossed across to California’s crew as she prepared to be moored, happy tears in her eyes as she held her eight-month-old daughter, Scarlett, who had only seen her father once during a port call since he left while she was just one month old.
During the deployment, California steamed approximately 42,000 nautical miles and served as ambassadors for the United States, the Navy and the submarine force during port visits to Faslane, Scotland and Haakonsvern, Norway.
One of the notable parts of the homecoming was that there were no “new fathers,” those who had yet to meet their new babies who had been born during the deployment. This was in part due to manning flexibility which allowed those who were expecting babies in the early days of deployment to be temporarily assigned locally until their child was born and others to depart the submarine during a port visit to make it home to either be there for their child’s birth or shortly thereafter to meet their newest bundle of joy.
Many changes had taken place at home while the crew was deployed. Alysia Ings, fiancé of Machinist’s Mate (Auxiliary) First Class David Faulks, noted that their nine-month-old daughter, Arabella, “has been saying dada all morning. It’s so weird because she never says that. I think she knows that today is the day.” To put that into perspective, her father has never heard her say “dada” before because she was just two months old when he deployed.
“I’m the happiest I could be because he gets to see his daughter for the first time in almost seven months and I get to fall in love with him all over again,” said Ings.
The crew put their time underway to good use. During the deployment, the crew of California had many accomplishments including 29 promotions, one officer earning their gold dolphins (submarine service warfare device), 25 crew members earning their silver dolphins, 19 watch qualifications, and three reenlistments while traveling the equivalent of approximately two complete trips around Earth at its equator.
“Together, they safely sailed over 42,000 nautical miles and conducted the full spectrum of peacetime operations,” said Payne. “They represent the finest character of American citizens. I am proud to have sailed with each of them, and overjoyed to see them reunited with their families.”
Fast-attack submarines like California are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities - sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence. The submarine is designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare – from open ocean anti-submarine warfare to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, to projecting power ashore with Special Operation Forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.
Commissioned on October 29, 2011, California is the eighth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name California. It is 377 feet long with a beam of 34 feet. Virginia-class fast attack submarines have a crew of approximately 132 made up of 15 officers and 117 enlisted Sailors. The California’s motto is Silentium Est Aureum (“Silence is Golden”), which pays tribute to both the submarine force’s motto, The Silent Service, and California’s state motto, The Golden State.
For more news from Naval Submarine Support Center, New London , visit www.navy.mil/local/nsscnlon/.