A Bittersweet Final Homecoming for USS Philadelphia
Groton, Conn. - Marking an end to her final routine deployment, Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) returned to Naval Submarine Base New London on Feb. 3, after a mission to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) areas of responsibility (AOR).
Philadelphia, which has been in service for more than 30 years and spanned eight presidents, is expected to be inactivated during a ceremony later this year. A date for the ceremony has not been set.
Mixed feelings were felt about the boat being decommissioned, but an overall sense of honor and pride filled the air.
"It is quite an honor," said Cmdr. John Spencer, Philadelphia's Commanding Officer. "The submarine's keel was laid in 1972 when I was four years old. I'd say 90 percent of the crew wasn't even born when this submarine was built. It's been a part of the Groton community the entire time, so it is a tremendous honor. For the hundreds and hundreds of men who've served on this submarine, it is great to be a part of that."
Everyone from mothers, fathers, wives and girlfriends battled the cold, fierce wind from the Thames River to greet their loved ones. Also in attendance were two babies who were born during the deployment.
"We're really excited to see him come home," said Kristen DeCicco, wife of Lt. Joseph DeCicco, as she held their four-month old baby. "This will be the first time he gets to see our son Noah."
"I hope we made all of the former Philly sailors proud," said Lt. Joseph DeCicco while he held Noah for the first time.
Because of the timing of the deployment, many of the families were separated during the winter holidays. Some families, however, plan to make up for lost time and celebrate just a little late.
"We're going home and having Christmas," laughed Ashley Harr, wife of Electronics Technician 1st Class Nicholas Harr. "My tree just went up two weeks ago, and we even have a white Christmas still," referring to the newly-fallen snow in the area. The Harrs will celebrate this late Christmas with their new son, Alexander, who was born while Nicholas was deployed.
It is a bittersweet homecoming for the crew. They are glad to be home but sad that this is the last deployment for a submarine that has been such a part of history. Even Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut marked the moment with a "welcome home" letter to the commanding officer.
"In peace and war, diplomacy and combat, those who served in today's nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Philadelphia can be proud of their contribution to the outstanding legacy of one of the greatest namesakes in our nation's maritime history," wrote Gov. Rell. "Welcome home to a grateful nation, and a very, very proud Connecticut homeport."
"You start realizing the history," said Spencer. "It has been 33 years. The people who have been on the original crew are old enough to be our grandparents. I think the guys realize that, and they really feel they are part of something special."
During the deployment, Philadelphia conducted port calls in Faslane, Scotland; Bahrain and Gibraltar, which was a fitting final overseas port call for Spencer.
"Gibraltar was a great place to get back to for me personally," said Spencer. "That was my first ever overseas port call in 1995. Now, it will be known as the last place I visited while aboard a submarine."
Philadelphia is the sixth U.S. Navy vessel to be named after the City of Brotherly Love. The contract to build the submarine was awarded Jan. 8, 1971 and her keel was laid down on Aug. 12, 1972. She was later commissioned on June 25, 1977 with Cmdr. Robert B. Osborne in command.