HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (May 21, 2012) USS Hawaii (SSN 776, departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a six month Western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Friends and families of the crew from the USS Hawaii (SSN 776) gathered at the submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to say goodbye as Hawaii's namesake Virginia-class submarine departed for a scheduled Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment, May 21.

"We are very excited to be deploying, and the experience that the ship and our crew will gain during this deployment is extremely valuable operationally. On a personal level, it will help to form memories that a Sailor will carry with him long after he departs the naval service." said Cmdr. Steve Mack, USS Hawaii commanding officer. "We are very proud to be the USS Hawaii, in Hawaii, and take a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that we will be representing these beautiful islands, our Navy, and our nation while deployed."

Since returning from her maiden Western Pacific deployment, the first for the Virginia class, in Feb, 2011, Hawaii has undergone maintenance and conducted training in preparation for this deployment.

"The submarine is in excellent material condition. Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and the Fleet Maintenance Branch team do an outstanding job of keeping our ships 'fit to fight, and we are well prepared for sustained operations at sea away from all shore-based maintenance support," said Mack. "Hawaii was commissioned in 2007, and although only 5 years old, she is now ready for a 2nd six month WESTPAC."

This will be the first time deploying for many of Hawaii's Sailors, and for others that have deployed previously, this will be their first chance to deploy to the Western Pacific, according to Mack. For Electronics Technician 2nd Class Brian Woody, who has been in the Navy for two years, this will be his first deployment.

"I am really glad to finally get to deploy and utilize my training," said Woody. "I am looking forward to gaining the experience of a deployment, getting submarine qualified and enjoying different parts of the world during our port visits."

Measuring 377 feet long, weighing 7,800 tons when submerged and a crew size of 129, Hawaii is one of the Navy's newest and most technologically sophisticated submarines.

"We intend to have Hawaii consistently ready for operations in order to carry out all assigned tasking on time, every time, and to represent the United States as responsible ambassadors of our country, our Navy, and our beautiful island state," said Mack.

The state-of-the-art submarine is capable of supporting a multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare.