GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Wearing Santa hats, elf hats and reindeer antlers, the crew of Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757) returned to Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., Dec. 18, following a regularly scheduled deployment.
The homecoming, which included Santa Claus riding aboard the submarine's sail, was an early Christmas gift for loved ones who lined the pier in chilly winter weather to greet Alexandria's crew, which departed for deployment May 21.
"This crew has done great things," said Cmdr. Gene Doyle, USS Alexandria commanding officer. "The ship did fantastic, but it's just a hunk of metal without the crew."
Alexandria conducted operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, supporting missions vital to national security interests. Alexandria also visited ports in Bahrain and Limassol, Cyprus.
"These guys operated in some of the most extreme submarine environments out there," said Doyle. "We operated in places that no one else has gone before and have done things no one else has done before. And these guys did it professionally with a lot of pride, and most of the time, with a smile on their face."
According to Doyle, the submarine steamed about 30,000 miles and spent four and a half months in the Persian Gulf in a challenging environment.
The challenges extended out of the water as well.
"When we were ashore, you were talking temperatures in the 130's. We had to do unsupported maintenance thousands of miles from home. But we kept the ship in fighting trim throughout. It is an amazing story," said Doyle.
On the pier during the homecoming, two crew members received early presents of their own when they held their newborn babies for the first time. Lailah Torres and Percibal Jude Firkin were born while their fathers were deployed.
"She's so beautiful," said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Sergio Torres as he stood with his wife, Amanda, and held his daughter. "I'm just so happy to be home - not to just one beautiful girl, but two!"
Before holding him on this day, Lt. j.g. Joshua Firkin only saw his son in photos.
"It's not the same at all," said Firkin. "He's so handsome! It feels great. I'm glad to be back to see the kids."
Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Patrick McClung and his wife Geri participated in the traditional "first kiss," while Susan Tweedy and family received the traditional "first hug" from Chief Culinary Specialist Chuck Tweedy.
Rounding out the homecoming, Santa passed out candy canes to the kids as USS Alexandria's 13 officers and 121 enlisted Sailors were reacquainted with their loved ones.
"Water out there is really less deep than the length of the ship," said Doyle.
"The sea water injection temperatures were routinely approaching 100 degrees. The ship is not designed to operate routinely in that kind of stuff. So, we just make it work, and the crew did that.
Doyle, a native of Kalispell, Mont. was commissioned through Officer Candidate School after graduating from Montana State University in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering.
Fast-attack submarines like Alexandria have multi-faceted missions. They use their stealth, persistence, agility and firepower to deploy and support special force operations, disrupt and destroy an adversary's military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity, and ensure undersea superiority.
The submarine, commissioned June 29, 1991, is the third Navy vessel to be named for cities in both Louisiana and Virginia.
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.