USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Oct. 16. (U.S. Navy/Lt. Brett Zimmerman)

PEARL HARBOR - The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) returned home to family and friends gathered at the submarine piers of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Oct. 16, following a scheduled six-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

The submarine’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Matthew R. Boland, who hails from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, praised his crew’s performance on mission and on liberty.

“The Jacksonville crew could not have performed better,” said Boland, “Although tasked with a challenging and demanding operational schedule, the Jacksonville crew rose to the occasion to successfully complete all missions.”

Boland said continuous training was a key to the deployments success. During the deployment, qualifications were a focus for many, as six officers and 10 enlisted personnel earned the right to wear the coveted “dolphins” submarine warfare pin.

“Numerous junior Sailors seized the opportunity to develop as watch-standers and received real-world training through the mentorship of the officers and chief petty officers on board,” said Boland.

Master Chief Electronics Technician Kevin Rollert, Jacksonville’s chief of the boat, from Watertown, Wisconsin, said the entire deployment was rewarding.

“Most important was watching the professionalism of the crew as we executed each mission, and meeting our goal of having every Sailor who left Pearl Harbor earn his submarine dolphins,” said Rollert.

Additionally, six officers advanced in rank, two Sailors were promoted to chief petty officer, and 23 junior enlisted were promoted to higher grade.

“I could not be more proud of our crew; Hoo-yah, Jax!” said Rollert.

Lt. Cmdr. Larry Arbuckle, from Bedford, Oregon, joined the crew halfway through the deployment as their new executive officer.

“I am immediately struck by the level of professionalism, enthusiasm and resiliency this group of Sailors brings to the Navy,” said Arbuckle. “The most rewarding part for me was getting to join and serve with such a fine group of Americans.”

Rear Adm. Bill Merz, commander of Submarine Group 7 in Yokosuka, Japan, said Jacksonville was the go-to attack boat of the 7th Fleet, significantly increasing the fleet’s warfighting posture. He was particularly impressed with the crew’s resiliency and ability to stay on mission.

Jacksonville furthered enhanced relations with allies and partners by participating in a two-week-long coordinated exercise with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy.

“Each sailor proudly represented the submarine force, the U.S. Navy and our nation, demonstrated by our success on mission, both at sea and in port,” said Boland. “I could not be more proud of the crew and their outstanding efforts.”

While on deployment the crew enjoyed and outstanding lineup of port calls, including Malaysia, Australia, Singapore and Guam. On liberty, the crew enjoyed engaging with local navies through tours, social activities and sporting events, as well as volunteering within the local communities.

“Visiting Australia was my favorite part, as I have always wanted to travel there,” said Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Robert Bergonzi, hailing from Boston. “Seeing kangaroos in the wild was awesome.”

Crew members volunteered at the Native Arc Wildlife Center, an organization that rehabilitates sick, injured and orphaned Australian wildlife, and worked with in-need children at a school in Singapore.

Upon returning home to Pearl Harbor, Boland and his crew are looking forward to reuniting with family and friends.

Waiting on the pier were friends and family with flower leis, banners, signs, with many cheering their return.

Lonnie and Norma Piehl traveled from Sanpoint, Idaho, to welcome home their son Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Nicholas Piehl.

“It’s extremely exciting, because we haven’t seen him in two years,” said Norma. “I am so glad we are able to be here today; we both miss him a lot.”

Commissioned May 16, 1981, USS Jacksonville is named after Jacksonville, the largest and most populous city in Florida, and is the first ship to bear its name. Her mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines, and to protect U.S. national interests. At 360-feet long and 6,900 tons, she can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Chief Electronics Technician Jeremy Brown is greeted by his wife and son upon Jacksonville's return. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Jason Swink)