GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Less than two weeks after USS Toledo (SSN 769) returned to SUBASE (Naval Submarine Base) from a rapid response wartime patrol, USS San Juan (SSN 751) and USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720) returned home from extended deployments to the accolades and embraces of their loved ones.
San Juan and Pittsburgh departed SUBASE for standard patrols in September and October 2002 and were both tasked to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Near the end of their six-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, San Juan was ordered to the Red Sea, extending their deployment to seven months.
"It was hard, but the crew was together," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Joshua Balter. "The mission to serve our country was what we had to do. I'm proud to serve with these men. Everyone is a warrior and everyone is a patriot."
San Juan and Pittsburgh joined several other naval combatants to conduct Tomahawk missile launches into Iraq. Approximately 800 missiles were fired into Iraq and one-third of those came from Navy submarines.
"We did a lot of training and a lot of Tomahawk strike preparations and exercises, which is a simulation of the actual missile launches," said Cmdr. Edward L. Takesuye, San Juan's commanding officer. "After having practiced it 16 times in the six months before the actual launches came, we were ready, and everyone responded just fine. I could not have been more proud of the crew."
Some of those crew members, in the midst of missile strikes, training and drills, were told that they had just become new fathers. One new father, aboard Pittsburgh, was awoken with the good news.
"The crew woke Electrician's Mate 2nd Class (SS) Joseph Shaffner up and told him his daughter Dylana was born," said Shaffner's wife, Bronwen Shaffner. "He heard her cry over the phone and was in awe. He kept saying he couldn't wait to hold her."
Shaffner received a picture of his new daughter via e-mail and was so excited that he showed it around throughout the submarine. Even though a picture may be worth 1,000 words, Shaffner could not compare it to holding her in his arms.
"It's a great feeling to hold her for the first time," Shaffner said. "This is the best part of my homecoming, because I'm home with my family, and now I'm going to spend time with them and get to know my new daughter."
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