USS Santa Fe (SSN 763) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Jan. 28. (U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Swink)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Smiles of excitement could be seen from the submarine piers for the crew of USS Santa Fe (SSN 763) as family and friends gathered to welcome back the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam following a deployment to the Western Pacific region, Jan. 28.

"The crew performed superbly, meeting every challenge and excelling at every opportunity," said Cmdr. Timothy Poe, Santa Fe's commanding officer.

While deployed, 21 Sailors and three Officers earned their designation as qualified in submarines and now wear their dolphin warfare insignia.

Along with this accomplishment, 20 Sailors advanced in rank and four Sailors were initiated into the Chiefs' Mess.

Poe said Santa Fe completed multiple missions vital to national security, strengthened the relationship with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and enhanced theater security and cooperation through port visits in the Republic of Singapore as well as Japan.

"The most rewarding aspect of this deployment has been witnessing the next generation of submariners gaining crucial experience by operating in some of the most demanding and challenging environments," said Poe.

Along with a warm welcome back to Pearl Harbor from family and friends, the crew was welcomed back by the Mayor of Santa Fe, David Coss, and other community leaders from New Mexico's capital city.

"All of these representatives, along with their families, are part of the Santa Fe ohana! The crew is honored to have them welcome us home," said Poe.

"Santa Fe has a very proud military community, so it is becoming a special relationship between our city and the USS Santa Fe," said Coss. "We are very proud to be here, we are proud of their service, and we are proud to say that we have a submarine in the Navy."

Coss added that the USS Santa Fe committee was able to sponsor 10 crew members to travel to Santa Fe last Memorial Day to participate in numerous ceremonies and events. Nearly a year later, those same crew members still talk about how much they enjoyed the trip, especially the warm support they received from the citizens of Santa Fe. The crew continues to talk about possibilities for the next trip to their namesake city.

"It's a curious thing to have pride in both directions. When I'm at home, I of course have a sense of pride in my work and what I do, but while I'm away, I take pride in home and everything that defines it," said Machinist Mate 1st Class Robert Roybal, a crewmember that grew up in Santa Fe. "To remember all the people back home, and think of their support, one cannot help but to be humbled and intensely grateful."

Friends and family crowded the pier to welcome them home.

"I'm ecstatic, I couldn't be more proud of him, and I'm just so happy," said Emily Randen, spouse of Santa Fe Sailor Culinary Specialist 1st Class Jared Randen. "I'm looking forward to spending time together as a family."

"It's the best feeling in the world! It's been a long six months, and it's just so great to have him back," said Ruth Davila, wife of Lt. Aaron Davila. "I'm excited to get reacquainted and seeing some sights around Hawaii."

Santa Fe is the second ship to be named in honor of the capital city of New Mexico. As an improved Los Angeles-class submarine, she features retractable bow planes and 12 vertical launch tubes for cruise missile strikes.

Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Eric Krukowski hugs his wife following the return of USS Santa Fe. (U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Khor/Released)