(Via Ho’okele News)
Chief Electrician’s Mate Derek Diener of the Los Angeles-class, fast attack submarine USS Columbus (SSN 762) spends time with his family at a lunch for the crew before Columbus departs to the western Pacific region. (See additional photo on page A-5).
Story and photo by MC1 Steven Khor
Commander Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs Office
Families and friends bid farewell to the crew of the Los Angeles-class, fast-attack submarine USS Columbus (SSN 762) as it departed Feb. 19 from Joint Base Pearl-Harbor Hickam for a deployment to the western Pacific region.
Cmdr. David Youtt, Columbus’ commanding officer, said the submarine and her crew are ready to get underway on a western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment.
“The ship is in the best condition of my time on board, all systems are at 100 percent, and we are ready to execute our WEST-PAC deployment,” said Youtt. “The crew is definitely ready to get under way, and we are ready to professionally execute the mission.”
Missions will include handling a multitude of taskings, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare and special operations in theater.
Youtt noted some of the challenges facing the crew include leaving their families, keeping the submarine operational for long periods, and continuing to qualify the Sailors in all facets of submarining.
However, he said he has an excellent crew and an excellent supply system to ensure continuous successful operations.
Youtt noted goals that include being ready for anything that Columbus is tasked to do, maximize qualifications of the submariners, and maximize the experience of the crew. He added that the senior Sailors will train with the younger personnel to gain the experience of going on a western Pacific deployment and how to best represent the country.
Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Herman Del Toro, Columbus’ chief of the boat, added that the crew will also have the opportunity to experience foreign ports of call.
“The crew has been training hard and even though it can be tough to leave the families, sometimes we get an opportunity to pull into some ports that some crew [members] will never experience if not for deployments,” said Del Toro.
Columbus deployed with about 135 Sailors, many of them on their first deployment.
For Culinary Specialist Seaman Jose Hernandez, a first-time deployment brings feelings of anticipation and excitement.
“I’m pretty excited for this first-time deployment,” said Hernandez. “It should be nice. I like the crew I’m working with, so I’m not worried about going under for so long.”
Hernandez talked about the challenges he will face.
“I’m looking to experience challenges and how we handle them as a crew, or individually, how well I do in getting my qualifications,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez added that despite any challenges, he looks forward to his first deployment, seeing new ports, and learning from his fellow shipmates to better prepare him for future opportunities in life.
Columbus is the 51st Los Angeles-class submarine and the 12th improved version of this class, which includes a vertical launch system for Tomahawk cruise missiles and an improved hull design for under-ice operations. It completed a post shipyard availability in June 1994 in Groton, Conn. after initial construction and shakedown operations. In September 1994, the ship conducted an inter-fleet transfer to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and joined the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force.