USS Charlotte (SSN 766) approaches the pier at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, May 13. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Michael H. Lee)

PEARL HARBOR - Friends and families of the crew of USS Charlotte (SSN 766) gathered pierside to welcome back the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine as she returned from a six-month Western Pacific deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, May 13.

"I am incredibly proud of our talented team and all they have accomplished,” said Cmdr. Andrew T. Miller, a native of Hilton Head, S.C., and Charlotte’s commanding officer. “Charlotte could not have accomplished her tasking without the selfless dedication of the crew that has committed themselves to the defense of our nation.”

During the deployment, 26 Sailors earned their designation as qualified in submarines and now wear their dolphin warfare insignia. Along with this accomplishment, 20 Sailors advanced in rank and 22 personnel qualified as supervisory watch standers.

For many of her crew, this was their first deployment or their first time out of the United States. Miller said a great deal of their success is attributed to the fact the crew hit the ground running leading up to their departure from Pearl Harbor. "Charlotte is in good hands with this exceptional group of young Americans we have aboard," said Miller. "All of our new teammates greatly contributed to the success of the deployment."

During the six-month deployment, Charlotte conducted several missions vital to the support of national and fleet commander objectives. Charlotte's crew also enjoyed liberty in the Philippines and Japan.

"I liked visiting the Philippines and Japan the most," said Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 3rd Class Andrew Lantz, a native of Havre de Grace, Md. "Seeing new places and doing cool stuff while underway is why I joined the Navy.”

Friends, families, and guests, which included retired submariners, crowded the pier to welcome the Charlotte crew home.

“It feels great and exhilarating,” said Travis Bradford, father of Yeoman Seaman Apprentice Bryan Bradford, hailing from Rockford, Ill. “I’m happy for him because, at first, he didn’t know what to do at school. He decided to sign up, and we kept supporting him.”

Upon returning to Pearl Harbor, Master Chief Electrician’s Mate James Grant, from Colorado Springs, Colo. and Charlotte’s Chief of the Boat, expressed the crew’s unwavering support and dedication to the mission.

“From superbly executing the difficult job of submarining in some of the most challenging environments in the world, to answering the call on short notice tasking, to safely piloting and mooring the ship in several foreign ports, or flawlessly executing the mission of liberty while deployed, this crew fought and won throughout the deployment,” said Grant. “I can honestly say as I wrap up my last deployment in the Navy that the crew of the mighty warship Charlotte is by far the best I have served with.”

Charlotte is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of the North Carolina city. Commissioned on September 16, 1994, at Norfolk, Va., the 360-foot long, 6,900-ton displacement submarine arrived at its new homeport, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Nov. 17, 1995.