Just a few days before Halloween, this was no trick: The Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS North Dakota (SSN 784) returned home to Naval Submarine Base New London on Thursday, Oct. 27, after a deployment of seven months.

“The North Dakota Sailors have been busy serving our country and keeping us safe,” said Terezia Nutt, who is married to North Dakota Sailor Petty Officer 2nd Class Larry Nutt. “While we are proud of them for their hard work and the time that they sacrifice, we’re happy to have them back home before Halloween – what a treat!”

During its deployment, North Dakota steamed more than 40,000 nautical miles and operated in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, making port calls to Faslane, Scotland; Tromso, Norway; Toulon, France; and Rota, Spain.

“This crew impressed me every day on this deployment with its professionalism and commitment to excellence,” said Cmdr. Robert Edmondson, commanding officer of North Dakota. “Navy submarines like North Dakota are equipped with cutting edge technology and have the stealth and firepower to give our country and incredible advantage in the undersea domain. But it’s the Sailors aboard, whose hard work and innovative thinking overcome any challenges we might face, who really deserve our admiration on a day like this.

“To our families here in Groton: We’ve missed you dearly, and we cannot thank you enough for your sacrifices and love during this deployment,” he added. “We’re so happy to be home.”

The ceremonial first kiss upon return to homeport was awarded to Petty Officer 3rd Class Brady Smith and his significant other Elizabeth Beaulieu. The ceremonial first hug was awarded to Chief Petty Officer John Hamm, his spouse Chelsey and his children Carson and John. Cassie Gagliardi introduced newborn daughter Maizie to her father and homecoming weapons officer, Lt. Connor Gagliardi.

“It has been a long seven months, but seeing the boat come up the river makes it all worth it,” said Jill Henry, whose husband, Master Chief Petty Officer Cody Henry, returned Thursday with the sub. “We are all so proud of our Sailors and are excited to have the North Dakota home in time for the holiday season.”

USS North Dakota recently celebrated its eighth birthday – the submarine was commissioned on Oct. 25, 2014. SSN 784 is the second U.S. warship commissioned under the name North Dakota, the first being a World War I battleship. The submarine North Dakota is more than 377 feet long and can displace nearly 7,900 tons. SSN 784 operates under Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 4 in Groton.

“I’m proud to welcome home Cmdr. Rob Edmondson and the crew of North Dakota who, over the last seven months, strived to further our nation’s objectives in the arena of great power competition,” said Capt. John Stafford, commander of Submarine Squadron 4. “The North Dakota families and the citizens of this country can take great pride in the loyal dedication to duty exemplified by the captain and crew of this warship. The return is especially sweet as the holiday season is upon us. We are all thankful for the selfless dedication of all who serve, but especially so today as we welcome home North Dakota.”

Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence. They are designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare. Fast-attack submarines project power ashore with special operations forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.