With Santa Claus waving onboard topside, the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS South Dakota (SSN 790) returned home to Naval Submarine Base New London on Sunday, Dec. 18, after a five-month deployment under the command of Cmdr. Adam Zaker.

“Whenever a shipmate can welcome home a submarine on the advent of the Christmas season, it’s a magical and joyous occasion for sailor and family alike,” said Capt. John Stafford, commander of Submarine Squadron 4, under which South Dakota operates. “Cmdr. Zaker and his crew executed a vital role in the defense of our nation and furthered the prospect of freedom and liberty abroad. I am incredibly proud of their deployment.

“They have well-earned the reunion with loved ones and the satisfaction that comes from a job well-done,” he continued. “These important missions would be impossible without the support and sacrifice of their families at home. My deepest thanks go out to the spouses, children, brothers, sisters, parents and friends who stand the watch over the home front during long months of deployment.”

During its deployment to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, South Dakota steamed more than 30,000 nautical miles and made a port call to Tromso, Norway. Twenty enlisted personnel and two officers earned their submarine warfare devices – commonly referred to as “dolphins” – during the deployment period.

“The crew of South Dakota proved once again to our country and world that America’s submarines can deploy any time, be almost anywhere and execute any mission we’re given,” said Zaker. “I’m tremendously proud of the professionalism and commitment to excellence shown by the South Dakota sailors over the past several months at sea, and I’m deeply thankful for the sacrifices made by our families and loved ones while we’ve been away. We all truly cherish these reunions.”

Chief Petty Officer Michael Kromer and his wife, Courtney, were recognized with the ceremonial first kiss on the pier.

“It has been a busy year for South Dakota, and we are so proud of our sailors and all that they have accomplished during this deployment,” said Command Family Ombudsman Carolyn Bannon, whose husband is Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Bannon. “We are thrilled to welcome them home – and just in time for the holiday season. There really is no feeling better than having our sailors home safe and in our arms once again.”

USS South Dakota was commissioned on Feb. 2, 2019. SSN 790 is the third U.S. warship commissioned under the name South Dakota, following a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser commissioned in 1908, and the lead ship of a class of fast battleships, which was commissioned in 1942 and operated during World War II. The submarine South Dakota has a crew of more than 130 personnel, is more than 377 feet long and can displace nearly 7,900 tons.

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 response to regional crises.