JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) returned to its homeport of historic Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to a festive St. Patrick’s Day reception on March 17, after the successful completion of her third scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific.
During deployment, the nuclear-powered warship traveled more than 36,000 nautical miles and conducted three port-call visits to Yokosuka, Japan, Guam and Busan, South Korea while conducting combined, international training exercises and missions critical to national security.
“I can’t speak enough about this crew of Tar Heels,” said Cmdr. Gary Montalvo of Durham, N.C., commanding officer aboard USS North Carolina. “The singular accomplishments are too many to list. We have developed into not only an effective warfighting team, but also a family, the Tar Heel family.”
One of the highlights of the deployment was conducting a bilateral anti-submarine warfare training exercise with the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) submarine ROKS Kim Jwa-Jin (SS 076). During the exercise, the Tar Heel Boat hosted several dignitaries and local officials, including the US Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, and the commander of the Republic of Korea Fleet, Vice Adm. Ki Sik Lee.
“We hosted three members of the ROKN submarine force underway and had the opportunity to share stories and experiences where we realized submarining provides a truly common bond no matter the nation,” said Montalvo.
While deployed, 14 crew members earned their submarine warfare qualifications and now wear the coveted submarine warfare insignia, or dolphins. Additionally, five Sailors were advanced in rank.
“With 70 percent of the crew experiencing their first deployment, we relied heavily on both a comprehensive pre-deployment training period and the experience and mentorship of our senior crew members,” stated Montalvo. “This is a family of humble and hungry Sailors excited about the challenges ahead. I am confident there is nothing these Tar Heels cannot accomplish as a team.”
While the crew of the submarine prepared for their highly anticipated return, friends and family members, most of them clad in green, eagerly waited for their loved ones along the channel and on the pier.
“Is that not the most beautiful sight in the world?” exclaimed Adriana O’Donnell, the wife of the chief of the boat aboard North Carolina, Master Chief Sonar Technician J.R. O’Donnell, as the boat approached the buoy chain that guides vessels into Pearl Harbor.
Waiting along the shore were the proud parents of Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jeremiah Jacobs, who hails from Clinton Township, Mich. “We wanted to be here to see him” said Master Chief Personnelman (Ret.) Jeffrey Jacobs, speaking from experience. “It is important to have someone waiting for you.”
“It was just a perfect deployment with a perfect ending, having all these families here,” said J.R. O’Donnell.
“I am so proud of this crew and what they have accomplished during this past deployment,” said Montalvo about his crew. “They successfully met every goal tasked to us by the operational commander. No matter where this crew ends up in life, they served their nation with distinction, and we all owe them our gratitude.”
Montalvo commented about all of his officers and Sailors. “Deploying for 182 days to the Western Pacific is not easy. This crew met and exceeded all expectations.”
Commissioned on May 3, 2008, USS North Carolina is the fourth of the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack submarines and the fourth warship to be named after the U.S. state of North Carolina. Measuring 377 feet long and weighing more than 7,800 tons, the submarine is capable of executing a multitude of missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, and shallow water operations.