(Via Ho’okele News)
Story and photo by MC1 Jason Swink
Submarine Force Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
The fast attack submarine USS La Jolla (SSN 701) returned home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Sept. 3 following its final regularly scheduled deployment.
Cmdr. Kevin Roach, the Los Angeles-class submarine’s commanding officer, said the crew was outstanding during their deployment to the western Pacific.
“I am honored to have sailed with them. I am inspired by their hard work and dedication they put in day in and day out,” said Roach of his crew’s performance. “They are motivated about doing the mission and doing what our country needs of us.”
During the deployment, La Jolla’s crew steamed more than 35,000 nautical miles. Theater security cooperation and friendship mission port visits were conducted in Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan; Sattahip, Thailand, Singapore; and Sepangar, Malaysia.
“We had the opportunity to do some things with the Malaysian submarine force,” said Roach. “There is not a more professional group of men and women I have met in the submarine force.”
Master Chief Fire Control Technician Edward Brennan, La Jolla’s chief of the boat, said he was proud of his Sailors’ performance during the different missions conducted in support of national security.
“The crew maintained the ship at sea and fought through all the ups and downs of being on deployment,” said Brennan.
La Jolla was underway for 150 of the 180 days deployed.
“My favorite memory of La Jolla is going to be the two western Pacific deployments and the hundreds of Sailors I have seen grow into submarine force leaders,” said Brennan.
Over the course of the deployment, 35 Sailors became submarine-qualified and are now able to wear their submarine warfare insignia, or “dolphins,” along with more than 30 Sailors moving up in rank, including three selections for chief petty officer, one for senior chief petty officer, and one master chief petty officer.
La Jolla is scheduled for decommissioning later this year and subsequently will be converted to a moored training ship (MTS) that will be permanently placed at Nuclear Power Training Unit, Charleston, S.C.
Roach said he is proud of the second life La Jolla will have as an MTS.
“Most Los Angeles-class submarines will get decommissioned, and that’s part of the life of a ship, but La Jolla will live on as a training ship,” said Roach. “Well past 20, 30, maybe 40 years from now, she’ll still be doing a mission—training students, and that’s a great thing to be part of.”
Families and friends showed off signs, banners and lei as the submarine came into view in the harbor.
Lisa Cortez was particularly excited about the return of her husband, Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Nicholas Cortez, and looking forward to some quality time together with their children, including a new baby who is expected any day.
“I missed him terribly,” said Lisa. “It feels amazing to have him back.”
Laura Dillard flew from Oklahoma to surprise her son, Chief Electronics Technician Shaun Blouin.
“His service is unbelievable. No mother has been more proud of her son than I am for him,” said Dillard, choking back tears. “Going a year without seeing him has been rough. He is a rock star.”
Surprised by his mom and surrounded by family, Blouin said he is looking forward to spending time with them in Hawaii before La Jolla leaves permanently.
USS La Jolla is named for La Jolla, Calif. and is the first warship named after the township. Commissioned Oct. 24, 1981, La Jolla is the 14th ship of the Los Angeles-class, fast attack submarines. The submarine is 360-feet long, displaces 6,900 tons, and can be armed with sophisticated Mark-48 ADCAP anti-submarine torpedoes and Tomahawk guided cruise missiles.