Sailors aboard the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Columbus (SSN 762) shift colors after arriving in Apra Harbor, Guam on May 30 for a routine port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Jason Swink)

APRA HARBOR, Guam (June 8, 2012) - Six submarines and one submarine tender dotted Guam's Apra Harbor this past week for the first time since 2002.

Los Angeles-class fast attack submarines USS Topeka (SSN 754), USS Tucson (SSN 770), USS Buffalo (SSN 715), USS Chicago (SSN 721), USS Columbus (SSN 762) and Ohio-class guided missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) all simultaneously converged in Guam.

Buffalo and Chicago are homeported here, and the others are on Western Pacific deployments. In port the submarines received repairs and maintenance by submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39). Land is currently in Guam on extended deployment from her home port of Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory.

While this volume of submarine traffic is unusual, Guam has been a popular destination for fleet maintenance and repairs for years.

"Guam is conveniently and strategically located in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, so the subs are always a short transit from Guam no matter where they are in the Western Pacific," said Capt. Scott Minium, commodore of Submarine Squadron 15 and former commanding officer of past Guam homeported submarine USS City of Corpus Christi. He also cited the submarine tender's unique afloat maintenance and repair capabilities is another reason submarines stop here.

Guam is also home to the Navy's second submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40). Diego Garcia-based Land has been in Guam since November while Cable undergoes a scheduled dry-docking maintenance period in Portland, Oregon.

For Land, handling the needs of six submarines simultaneously is a task that makes full use of all the tender's capabilities and services. Both Land and Cable's repair departments handle the influx of work from ship and shore facilities. This encompasses the tender's full range of repair capabilities, from manufacturing new pipe fittings and special tools, rewind motors, and the tender's Navy divers'ability to fix underwater equipment. In addition to the maintenance and supply mission, the submarine Sailors have been taking advantage of the tender's ship services such as the barber shop, ship's store, laundry, internet caf´┐Ż, galley, and berthing.

"Due to the unique expeditionary manning of Land, we could never have accomplished this level of maintenance without the repair and supply support from over 500 Sailors that are temporarily assigned to us from Cable," said Capt. Paul Savage, Land's commanding officer. "As a former submarine captain, I've benefited from the services provided by our forward deployed submarine tenders on many occasions and fully appreciate the capabilities we have to offer. Even if the tender was not at the port I was visiting, I knew that I could count on the highly skilled tender Sailors to meet me with the parts and tools at nearly any port to conduct repairs."

The wide variety of jobs accomplished on both the home ported and deployed submarines demonstrates the value of a forward deployed submarine tender in maintaining the U.S. Submarine Force in a high state of readiness. While Sailors on board a tender are capable of performing most repairs, for those occasional jobs that require shipyard level maintenance, shipyard workers may embark the tender to utilize craftsmen and machinery equipment to complete repairs.

"Keeping submarines in the U.S. 7th Fleet theater and in top readiness condition demonstrates our nation's commitment to this region of the world and is vitally important to our national security," said Savage. "I'm extremely proud of my crew's outstanding and dedicated performance in completing all repair jobs safely and on schedule."