By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Dean Lohmeyer, Commander, Submarine Force Public Affairs
The Los Angeles class fast-attack submarine USS Norfolk (SSN 714) departed Naval Station Norfolk's Pier 3 Dec. 28, beginning a regularly scheduled six-month independent deployment.
Norfolk will deploy to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
Cmdr. Troy Jackson, Norfolk's commanding officer, said his crew is ready for every mission they are given.
"The crew is fired up and ready to go," said Jackson. "They've worked very hard over the past several months. They've put in a lot of hard work and effort. We've also received a lot of support from our parent squadron (Commander Submarine Squadron 6), our maintenance organization, and we also received a lot of support during our recent stay in Groton. I can't say enough about the support we've received to get us to this point."
Norfolk is deploying independently, without a carrier or expeditionary strike group. This type of deployment brings special challenges for Jackson and his crew.
"The challenges of deploying independently are that we won't have associated support directly with us, such as additional force protection that other units can provide," said Jackson. "It also brings opportunities, in that we can be a little more flexible in our operations and what we're permitted to do."
Norfolk's Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Machinist's Mate (SS) Bob Koehler, a 29-year veteran of the Navy, is making the final deployment of his career, and is excited to be getting underway.
"I'm excited, but I have mixed emotions," said Koehler. "It's been a good run, and it's going to be tough to leave, but I'm excited about getting out there. We have a lot of young guys on the boat, and that's what it's all about â€“ watching them develop as submariners, as Sailors, and as people."
Norfolk's crew was able to spend the early portion of the holiday period
at home. But with the deployment coming between Christmas and New Year's Day, it was difficult for Koehler and Norfolk's senior leaders to be able to give Norfolk's Sailors additional time off for the holidays.
"The crew is a little melancholy about the deployment happening when it is, but they understand that we're here to do a job and this is what we've been training for," said Koehler. "The upside is that we got to spend a little more time at home, but we remember that there are a lot of our brothers out there who didn't get to spend any time at home."
Electronics Technician 3rd Class (SS) Jeramya Henson is making his first deployment on board Norfolk. This will be the second deployment of his short career, having returned from the final deployment for USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708) in April.
Henson said he's ready for this deployment, but could never really be prepared for a deployment.
"A lot of preparation goes into a deployment, but in my opinion you can never really be prepared for it," said Henson. "The first time I deployed, I didn't know what to expect. This time I have an idea of what to expect, but it's still difficult to prepare for, especially with this deployment coming so soon after I returned from the last one."
Part of Henson's preparations for this deployment included helping his wife, Ashley, move to Dallas, Texas, to be closer to family members for the duration of her husband's deployment.
"There are a lot of things that go into planning for a deployment, including the family aspect," said Henson. "We had to get a lot of our affairs in order before we moved her back home to Dallas. Being away from the family is the hardest thing."
Fast-attack submarines like Norfolk are multi-mission capable, using stealth, persistence, agility and firepower to deploy and support special forces operations, disrupt and destroy an adversary's military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity, and ensure undersea superiority.
Norfolk is 360-ft. long, displaces 6,900 tons of water, and can travel in excess of 25 knots.