KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- USS Florida (SSGN 728), led by Capt. William Traub, Blue Crew commanding officer, departed on its maiden operational deployment as a newly converted guided-missile submarine, from the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, on April 26.
Florida is the second of the four SSGNs in service to depart on their initial deployment and the first from Kings Bay. It took the efforts of all the Kings Bay major commands to make sure the boat deployed on time.
"Kings Bay is the best place to be a submarine [commanding officer] because of the incredible support we have. We were all totally committed to getting Florida deployed on time," said Capt. John Litherland, Florida Gold Crew commanding officer. "This is the boat's first deployment and we wanted to get it off on the right foot and every organization made it their number one priority this week to get her deployed on time and obviously with a successful result."
Florida completed a rigorous import training program at Trident Training Facility as well as multiple at-sea training scenarios, and the crew exceeded the fleet standards in most cases. Squadron 16's role has been to evaluate the crew and certify the boat for this deployment.
"It really was a Herculean effort by Team Kings Bay," said Capt. Daniel Mack, commodore, Squadron 16/20. "From the Trident Repair Facility and the countless hours they did in planning and executing last week's maintenance that supported the underway to Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic that made sure we had the right missiles prepared. My discussions with my chain of command at Submarine Group 10 and Submarine Force said this is going to be a huge undertaking, and Team Kings Bay pulled it off."
The importance of starting the Florida's deployment in a timely manner isn't lost on the squadron's commodore.
"It's huge for the entire community," Mack said. "The SSGN concept was born less than 10 years ago and now we have a Kings Bay boat out on the tip of the spear in the war on terrorism with capability unmatched by any platform available to the president and to the theater commander with strike, special operation forces and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities."
Naval Submarine Support Center (NSSC) and Trident Repair Facility (TRF) also helped address issues that arose prior to deployment, threatening to delay deployment by several days.
Lt. Cmdr. Bill Francis, NSSC's executive officer said, "It was a bunch of different folks from NSSC working with TRF, other outside activities [SPAWAR and Naval Undersea Warfare Center] and the ship to put it all together and make it happen."
Capt. John Stewart, TRF's commanding officer, said his command, during a six-day period, completed over one-hundred maintenance actions in order for Florida to depart on time and all of the jobs were completed ahead of schedule.
Florida will exchange crews three times for a total of four, three-month periods during the year-long deployment. Litherland and the Gold Crew will bring the boat back to Kings Bay in a year for her next major maintenance period.
Litherland added that this type of year-long deployment is unique to the SSGN and proves valuable.
"It keeps the ship deployed and available to the theater commander for a year at a time and with two ships from Kings Bay, once the USS Georgia (SSGN 729) comes up on line, that will provide continuous theater presence of an SSGN ready for operational tasking," Litherland said.
It took both Florida's Blue and Gold Crews working 24/7 for the final week to get ready. The Gold Crew manned the night shifts and supply load issues, so the Blue Crew could be down at the boat during the day dealing with big issues and allow more time with their families before they deployed.
"It was important for us last week to send them off in as good of shape as possible so that means we will get it back in better shape when we take it over this summer," Litherland said.
Until then, the Gold Crew will be working in the simulators of Trident Training Facility, practicing for the missions they expect to execute while deployed and making sure the crew is tactically and operationally ready. They will also be preparing for the logistical effort of flying a crew half way around the world to their forward refit site, along with TRF team members, to make any necessary repairs to the boat during the turnover.
"It took a lot of preparation, training and hard work to prepare Florida for its first SSGN deployment, but none of it would have been possible without the support of our families, our Kings Bay shipmates and the community," Traub said. "We are able to be focused on our mission, knowing that we have such a great support system at home and knowing how proud they are of us. The crew and I are motivated to take on the submariner's new role in the global war on terrorism and show how the Navy is transforming to meet new challenges and guarantee our country's security."
For more news from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, visit www.navy.mil/local/subasekb/.