USS Columbia (SSN 771) returns to the submarine piers of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Nov. 18. (U.S. Navy/PO2 Michael H. Lee)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Friends and family members gathered pierside to cheer the return of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN 771) following the successful completion of her six-month Western Pacific deployment on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Nov. 18.

"I was inspired to see how every single member of the crew contributed to the mission," said Cmdr. David L. Edgarton, a native of Houston, Texas, and Columbia's commanding officer. "We were very pleased that we had so many opportunities to contribute to theater security objectives and that we had a part in promoting regional stability."

While deployed, Columbia visited the ports of Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan, as well as the island of Guam. They also qualified three officers and 13 enlisted Sailors in submarines and advanced 16 Sailors in paygrade.

"The crew performed admirably," said Master Chief Petty Officer Anthony P. Torres, also from Houston, Texas. "Our newest members completed several of their initial submarine qualifications and gained valuable experience, while our senior crewmembers were able to earn senior level qualifications."

For many Sailors, this deployment was an opportunity to put forth months of training into real world scenarios.

"My most memorable achievement was when I qualified my first underway watch station," said Seaman James E. Rickard, from West Palm Beach, Florida. "In my mind, that gave me the opportunity to prove myself and show my work ethic to my peers."

Edgarton said the crew is happy to be back home with friends and family but they are looking forward to their next deployment and eventual return to the Seventh Fleet area of operations.

"With this level of camaraderie, there is very little, if anything, this crew can't handle," said Edgarton. "I am extremely fortunate and proud to be their commanding officer."

USS Columbia was commissioned in 1995 and was the last Los Angeles-class submarine to be built at Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut. One of the most versatile ships in the world, Columbia is capable of numerous types of missions, including long-range Tomahawk strike operations, anti-submarine and surface ship tracking operations, surveillance and intelligence gathering, and even Special Forces insertions.

Lt. William Spears is greeted by his wife and children upon USS Columbia's (SSN 771) return. (U.S. Navy/PO2 Michael H. Lee)