Monday, August 24, 2015
Attack sub USS Columbus returns from Southern Command deployment
Submarine Force Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
21 August 2015
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Columbus (SSN 762) recently returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam following a unique deployment to the south.
Columbus returned Aug. 11 to the submarine piers lined with family and friends bidding a warm aloha welcome as she returned from a deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) 4th Fleet area of responsibility.
The crowd cheered and waved signs, banners, and leis as the submarine came into view in the harbor.
Columbus completed two safe and efficient transits of the Panama Canal and made the first-ever Los Angeles-class submarine visit to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the submarine's commanding officer, Cmdr. Albert Alarcon. He said the crew was outstanding and productive throughout the deployment.
"I'm very proud of my shipmates," said Alarcon. "It has been a pleasure to watch each of my Sailors grow personally and professionally as they continuously postured the Columbus team to reach a higher level of performance."
Columbus' executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Mewett from Plano, Texas, said the crew was outstanding, maintaining a 96 percent operations tempo over the deployment and successfully completing both national and theater commander tasking.
According to Mewett, submarines bring unmatched covert combat power to the theater commander and are ready to execute a broad set of missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; anti-surface warfare; anti-submarine warfare; strike warfare and naval special warfare operations.
"Most Pacific Fleet submarines have extensive experience operating in the Western Pacific," said Mewett, noting that Pacific Submarine Force units have not frequented SOUTHCOM to nearly the same levels. "We had more to learn and familiarize ourselves as we operated in an unfamiliar area. Also, we deployed for just three months rather than the typical six months of a Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment."
In addition to gaining the experience of operating at sea, the deployment afforded Sailors the opportunity to work on qualifications.
Over the course of the deployment, 19 enlisted Sailors and one officer on the crew became submarine qualified and are now able to wear their respective submarine warfare insignia, also known as "dolphins."
Twenty-two Sailors also qualified on new supervisory watch station positions.
"Our junior crewmembers performed well, aggressively pursuing submarine and watch station qualifications and taking advantage of the opportunity to gain operational experience," said Mewett.
Many Columbus Sailors had favorite moments during the deployment. Some were genuine favorites while others were funny memories.
"Preparing the charts for the first submarine visit to Guantanamo Bay in 21 years," said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Reese Hand of Dallas, Texas.
Electronics Technician 3rd Class Brandon Heglie from Post Falls, Idaho, said his favorite experience was seeing various crewmembers earn their dolphins.
"Smoking a cigar on the bridge with Oahu in sight on the last day of deployment," was Philadelphia native Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Kurtis Bradley's favorite moment.
USS Columbus is the 51st Los Angeles-class submarine and the 12th improved version of the class, which includes a vertical launch system for
Tomahawk cruise missiles and an improved hull design for under-ice operations. In September 1994, the ship conducted an inter-fleet transfer to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and joined the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force.