USS Tucson (SSN 770) returned to Naval Station Pearl Harbor Monday, Dec. 15, following a 23-month absence that included a modernization period in Norfolk, numerous sea trials and a port visit in San Diego.
"Everybody is happy to be back in Pearl Harbor," said Cmdr. Paul Spear, USS Tucson commanding officer. "The homecoming aspect is nice, especially since half my crew is new and hasn't been here yet."
The submarine just completed a major overhaul in Norfolk.
"Tucson has a new fire control system and a totally refurbished engine room as well as a lot of new gear on board," said Ensign John Chester Jr., Tucson junior officer.
Tucson departed Pearl Harbor in January 2007 and has since acquired many new crew members, many of whom had never seen the submarine's homeport, having come aboard during the shipyard period.
"Coming to Hawaii is a big relief for us," said Electronics Technician Seaman (SS) Fred Saunders.
"Wherever we were, every Friday at quarters we would announce the count down to Pearl Harbor."
"I'm very excited to get to Hawaii," said Chester. "Everything new and innovative going on in the submarine force is happening on the west coast."
Prior to heading home, Tucson stopped in San Diego where the sub hosted an embark for business leaders of its namesake city, Tucson, Ariz.
"We have an excellent relationship with our namesake city," said Spear. "The mayor has come to every change of command ceremony, and our Sailor of the Year, Junior Sailor of the Year and Bluejacket of the Year all fly to Tucson for a week for some community engagement and to tour the city every year."
The final days of transit from San Diego were passed anxiously, yet productively. The entire crew took advantage of the time to conduct numerous training drills for the benefit of the junior crew members.
"The last few months have been pretty tough for us," said Saunders. "We were coming out of the shipyard and trying to get the submarine ready for sea so there were a million things to do. Things are looking up now, and everybody's ready for a slower pace for the holidays."
Awaiting the Sailors on the pier at home were excited friends, family and shipmates including Commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny.
"Welcome back to the Pacific, Tucson," McAneny wrote in a pre-arrival welcome message. "And well done!"
Tucson is a Los Angeles class attack submarine with approximately 125 crew members, both officer and enlisted. They have received three Battle Efficiency Awards and four Retention Excellence awards.
(Source: Navy News Service)