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PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Friends and families of the crew from the USS Hawaii (SSN 776) gathered at the submarine piers to welcome back the Virginia-class submarine as she returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after completing a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific region, Nov. 20.
"It was an honor and privilege to sail with these warriors, ambassadors and Sailors, taking the war canoe on her second Western Pacific deployment, "said Cmdr. Stephan G. Mack, USS Hawaii commanding officer. "We are very proud of them for their accomplishments."
During the deployment, Hawaii accomplished tasking in support of theatre and national interests and participated in two combined anti-submarine warfare exercises.
Hawaii also conducted several port visits that strengthened relationships with key regional allies, including Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines throughout her six months away from Pearl Harbor. While in the foreign ports, the crew experienced different cultures and participated in social events with their host ships.
Mack said the crew of 137 performed flawlessly in all respects in the six month deployment. They were also highly successful in the area of professional development with 24 Sailors having earned their submarine qualification or "Dolphins" and many returning to homeport advanced to the next higher pay grade.
"Deployment exposed all Hawaii Sailors to the dynamic operational environment of the Western Pacific, enabling all hands to achieve more senior qualification and gain valuable at sea experience," said Mack. "The experience we gained operating Hawaii for six months forward-deployed, away from shore-based support, demonstrates our capability for extended operations, our commitment to distant friends, and the flexibility, endurance, and mobility of these mighty warships."
For 57 of the 137 Sailors on board, this was their first deployment experience according to Mack. Sonar Technician Submarines Seaman Craig Parazak describes the deployment as eye opening and something that he has a new found respect for.
"It was the hardest work that I have ever had to do, but very rewarding," said Parazak.
Mack said the submarine's return home from deployment back to family and friends was made even better by their return to the beautiful island of Hawaii.
"There is nothing better than being on the Hawaii in Hawaii," said Mack.
Hawaii is the first commissioned vessel of its name. The submarine was named to recognize the tremendous support the Navy has enjoyed from the people and state of Hawaii, and in honor of the rich heritage of submarines in the Pacific.