USS Santa Fe (SSN 763) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Wednesday. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Jason Swink)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Santa Fe (SSN 763) returned to Pearl Harbor, Oct. 28, completing a regularly-scheduled six-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

The deployment was Santa Fe's second in three years to the Western Pacific, and included port visits to Japan, Guam and Singapore.

"We had an outstanding deployment," said Cmdr. Timothy Poe, Santa Fe's commanding officer. "We conducted extended operations in some of the world's most challenging environments and helped develop the next generation of submarine experts. I could not be prouder of this crew and all their accomplishments. They met every challenge and exceeded every expectation."

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was on hand to welcome the Santa Fe crew home. She joined the crew for the ride into the pierside homecoming, where she talked directly with Santa Fe Sailors and families, expressing appreciation and sharing the strong namesake relationship between the submarine and the capital city of New Mexico.

"Reflecting on today's events, I can't put into words the pride I feel celebrating the homecoming of the Santa Fe with its crew members," said Martinez. "It's unbelievable the sacrifices the men of the Navy's submarine community make to protect this great country of ours. Saying 'thank you' is never enough. But it's the only words to express the gratitude I have for their service."

Many at the homecoming also expressed their gratitude for the strong namesake support.

"Just knowing that the people of Santa Fe stand behind our crew while we are on mission, makes the hard days bearable," said New Mexico native Lt. Keith Skillin, the submarine's navigator and operations officer. "This career makes it easy to feel like the rest of the world has forgotten you. But [having] the support from the people of Santa Fe and the people back home reminds us all that even though we are the 'silent service,' there are people out there thinking about us and remembering we are here."

While deployed, 30 Sailors and three officers earned their designation as qualified in submarines and now wear their dolphin warfare insignia.

"Getting qualified in submarines and earning my dolphin warfare insignia was the most rewarding part of this deployment for me," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Nathan Tillery. "I'm looking forward now to venturing around the island of Oahu. I didn't get a chance to when I first got here because we left on this deployment soon after I arrived."

Measuring more than 360 feet long and weighing more than 6,000 tons when submerged, Santa Fe is one of the stealthiest submarines in the world.

She combines stealth, endurance and agility to provide a highly cost effective and capable ship, ready on a moment's notice to carry out a multitude of missions. Commissioned on Jan. 8, 1994, Santa Fe is the 52nd ship of the Los Angeles-class and is homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

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New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez greets a Sailor and thanks him for his service following USS Santa Fe (SSN 763)'s returns home to Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Jeff Troutman)