Family members and friends gathered on the historic submarine piers to welcome home the crew of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN 771) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, June 6.
Columbia successfully completed a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific conducting operations and exercises in support of national security.
Cmdr. David L. Edgerton, commanding officer of Columbia, attributed their successful and rigorous deployment to his professional crew.
“Their resourceful tenacity allowed us to remain operational anytime we faced a challenge,” Edgerton said. “I admire their positive attitudes, resiliency and tight-knit camaraderie, even while deployed from friends and family. It was a privilege to spend the past six months with them.”
Throughout the deployment, 10 Columbia Sailors advanced to the next pay grade, and seven officers were promoted to the next higher rank. Twenty Sailors also earned their submarine warfare qualification symbolically known within the submarine community as “earning your dolphins.”
“Columbia was fortunate to have a vast number of crew members with prior deployment experience,” said Master Chief Electronics Technician Jason Karns, Columbia’s chief of the boat. “As many of our first-time deployers qualified in junior watch stations, our senior crew members were able to move up to supervisory-level qualifications, developing them for future leadership roles.”
Columbia continued its commitment to foster strong partnerships with foreign allies and served as U.S. ambassadors and hosts during port visits to Japan.
“We operated throughout the Pacific conducting operations and exercises, and our port visits in Sasebo and Yokosuka fostered our already strong partnership with Japan,” Edgerton said. “This gave us the opportunity to showcase the capabilities of a U.S. fast-attack submarine manned by our remarkable submariners.”
As the fast-paced operational tempo winds down from deployment, the Columbia crew reflected on their achievements and lessons learned from this deployment.
“I definitely grew as an individual and as a team player while overcoming the challenges that I encounter being away from family for an extended period,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Richard Arden. “I was able to increase my technical proficiency while standing watch at sea. I will take all that I learned with me into my future endeavors.”
Columbia, commissioned in 1995, was the last 688-class submarine built at Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut. Columbia is capable of numerous types of missions, including long-range Tomahawk strike operations, anti-submarine and surface ship tracking operations, surveillance and intelligence gathering and special forces insertions.