Wednesday, April 27, 2016
After extended deployment, USS Toledo returns to Groton
USS Toledo attack sub completed 31,000 nautical mile deployment.
Julia Bergman, New London Day
25 April 2016
GROTON – Chief Tyler White heard them before he could see them.
About 20 family and friends, sporting white T-shirts with the words "#teamtyler" on the back, chanted "Tyler" over and over as they stood on the pier waiting for the USS Toledo to dock and for White to get off. He was able to wave to the group once the boat got close enough since he was topside.
The USS Toledo, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, returned to Groton Monday afternoon after seven months at sea.
Loved ones had to wait a little longer than usual as the boat's deployment was extended by a month. Officials did not provide a reason for the extension.
"They handled it very well," Toledo's skipper Cmdr. Michael Majewski, a native of Toledo, Ohio, said. "A couple of guys were excited about the expanding mission set that we'd be going to execute ... nobody complained."
When asked about the large crowd that gathered to greet Chief White, his wife Jessica said, "Because that's how we do it."
"When we do things, we do things big," said Jessica White.
Some came from as far as Florida to see her husband, she said.
Majewski estimated that about 60 percent of crew members were returning from their first deployment.
Lakiah Handy Earl said it was her and her husband Adrian's, a logistics specialist on the Toledo, "first deployment," describing how it was a shared experience.
Handy Earl held a sign that read "Keep calm, here I am, like I promised."
After the two embraced, Adrian Handy Earl said he'd been waiting "seven months" for that moment.
Lakiah Handy Earl and her friend Kayla Lynch, whose husband is also stationed on the Toledo, said they relied on each other a lot the past seven months. It was also Lynch's husband Stephen's first deployment.
The two women would go to the grocery store and make dinner together.
"She's lived on my couch for months," Lynch said of Handy Earl.
Barbara and Marty Wilson flew from Denver, Colo., to greet their son Brett, who returned from his first deployment. They were planning to stay the whole week.
Brett Wilson is carrying on a long tradition on both sides of his family of serving in the Navy. His parents said they were really surprised he chose the submarine service.
"He's 6'4," Barbara Wilson said, laughing.
"He said he loves it though," said Marty Wilson, who also served in the Navy but never on submarines.
While deployed, the crew operated on a new watch-standing schedule, which the submarine force transitioned to last year.
Previously, crewmembers were on watch for six hours a day and off for 12 hours. Under the new schedule, they are on watch for eight hours and have 16 hours between watches.
The crew maintained eight-hour watches pretty much the whole deployment with the exception of "maybe only five or six days," Majewski said.
"I think the crew is a big fan of that ... I'm not a big fan of it because I'm what they call a day walker so I got probably less sleep than everybody else, but it's very good for the crew," he said.
He noticed a difference in the attentiveness of the crew and their day-to-day morale.
While deployed, the Toledo steamed about 31,000 nautical miles, equal to about six round trips from New London to San, Diego, Calif., by car, and made port visits in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, France, Spain and Greece.