Undersea Warfare The Official Magazine of the U.S. Submarine Force Fall 2003 U.S. Submarines… Because Stealth Matters Cover of Fall 2003 Issue
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Last PACFLT Shooter Returns from Iraqi Freedom
by JOC(SW/AW) David Rush, COMSUUBPAC Public Affairs
Photo captions follows
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine Key West (SSN-722) pulls into its homeport in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Photo caption follows
Electronics Technician 1st Class Michael Gray and his five-year-old son reunite at Key West’s homecoming.

Photo by JOC David Rush

Photo caption follows

Linehandlers onboard Key West secure the submarine’s mooring lines.

Photo by PHAN Benjamin D. Glass

The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Key West (SSN-722), one of four Pacific Fleet submarines to strike at targets in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, returned to its homeport of Pearl Harbor on 24 July 2003.

Key West left for deployment on 24 January and was in the Arabian Gulf when coalition forces began the initial strike against targets in Iraq. “We were ready when the call came, and our crew performed flawlessly in combat,” said Commanding Officer CDR Chuck Merkel, who has the unique distinction of being the only submarine commander who has led his crew into back-to-back combat operations since World War II.

For one Key West crewmember, just 22 years old and with only two years in the Navy, this was a memorable milestone in his career. Fire Control Technician Seaman David G. Young, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, was on duty when the call came to go to war. “I was on watch in the Vertical Launch Center, where we open the hatches and prepare the missiles to be shot… It was tense, but everyone was ready to go,” said Young.

As for getting to be part of the action, Young and his fellow Sailors were glad to be able to contribute to Operation Iraqi Freedom. “You sit out there for a long time, and you finally get to do something. I feel proud. We did a good job. We’ve been hearing a lot of good things being said about us,” said Young.

As for his first deployment, Young was glad to be a part of something he will never forget. “This is my first deployment. It’s a good way to start out. Most Sailors don’t ever get a chance to do what we’ve done, but I got to do it my first time. You can’t beat that!”