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(Above) Commander, U.S. European Command, Adm. James G. Stavridis meets with the crew of USS Miami (SSN-755), in port at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, outside Glasgow, Scotland. SHAPE Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stefanie Antosh.

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Moore

On the chilly morning of Dec. 2, 2009, parents and children bundled up and braved the cold air along the Thames River in Groton, Conn. Some shivered, but they didn’t mind, because their loved ones—husbands, fathers, brothers—were coming home. The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Miami (SSN-755) was returned home from an eight-month routine deployment to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) area of responsibility.

In the course of the deployment, which began April 2, crewmembers visited ports in Haakonsvern, Norway; Portsmouth, England; and Faslane, Scotland. On Nov. 17, during the last port call—at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, in Faslane—EUCOM Commander Adm. James G. Stavridis visited Miami and congratulated her crew on the completion of a successful deployment.

As the submarine made its way to the pier at Submarine Base New London, some kids pointed and shouted, “There’s Santa. Is he real?” A Sailor dressed as St. Nick stood with line handlers. Once the boat docked, he passed out candy canes to the kids, including seven-year-old Luke Regnet, who gave the traditional “First Hug” to his father, Electronics Technician Second Class Don Regnet.

Regnet’s wife, Tamar, had a special holiday gift of her own to give her husband—a “honey do” list. “I’m just so glad that it’s over,” said Mrs. Regnet. “We’ve had three flat tires and all sorts of things breaking, so I have quite a big to-do list for him.”

The sub’s crewmembers were as glad as those ashore that Miami was home. “Holy cow! It feels good,” said Cmdr. Dennis Boyer, her commanding officer, after docking in Groton and coming ashore to a huge hug from his wife. “It feels great to be back in New England, even in December.”

The crew cannot discuss much of the work they performed during the deployment, but they admit that they had the opportunity to enjoy the places they visited. One thing that many Sailors did not expect was the feeling of familiarity and comfort they encountered while visiting Scotland and England. Although they were awestruck by all of the history they encountered in those two distinct parts of the United Kingdom, many felt close to home when interacting with local people and getting to know the culture.

“We could relate to a lot of the English and Scottish people because a lot of us share our heritage with them,” said Machinist Mate Second Class Matt Close. “In America, our history only goes back to the 1700’s, and it’s pretty modern history as far as anyone’s concerned. You go back and see the castles, crown jewels, previous kings, old navy fleets, and historical figures such as William Wallace, and it’s very interesting. I have Scottish heritage, so I got a lot of stuff with my clan’s tartan while I was there. Going back and seeing the history that involves all of us before American history is very rewarding.”

While in Scotland, one Sailor made the long port visit especially memorable by flying his wife out for a six-day leave period. “My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed Scotland,” said Electronics Technician Second Class Patrick Lisenby. “While we stayed in downtown Glasgow we got to visit places such as Stirling Castle. Also, everyone in Scotland and England were very hospitable to all of us. Although, everyone there laughed at my Southern accent,” he laughed. “They all kept calling me John Wayne.”

According to some of the Sailors, Glasgow offered many forms of entertainment for visitors. Aside from the historic landmarks, there was a facility that featured an indoor ski slope, rock climbing, bowling, cinema, arcade, laser tag, and a shopping mall. Glasgow also offered more than 250 pubs, most of which featured live music during the weekends.

images captions follow
(Top) Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Simonds, assigned to the
Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Miami (SSN-755),
shares a candy cane with his son while his wife looks on.
Photo by John Narewski.
(Bottom) A Sailor dressed as Santa Claus greets a child during
USS
Miami’s return to Naval Submarine Base New London.
U.S. Navy photo.

Keeping in touch with the family back home was also made easier by the large number of free WiFi hotspots. Since 2005, the city center of Glasgow has been a popular spot for anyone with a wireless device. Sailors were able to use their laptops in virtually every restaurant. Using software such as Skype, they could call home and, with a webcam, could even talk face-to-face with loved ones.

“When I left for deployment, my baby was already four months old,” said Close, “and by the time I got home, she was over a year old. Skype enabled me to see my baby girl grow up and let me feel like I wasn’t gone for too long.”

Another stop for the Sailors aboard Miami was Portsmouth, on England’s south coast, which was already an important naval port when the English defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth has the oldest dry dock still in use. It is also home to historic warships like HMS Victory, the massive wooden “ship-of-the-line” on whose deck the great naval hero Horatio Nelson was mortally wounded while leading the British fleet to victory in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.

Despite all the fun and potential distractions ashore and on the sub, the crew remained focused on their mission. “The crew was fantastic,” said Boyer. “They were very well prepared by our squadron, staff and submarine school here. They all did very well in preparing the ship for deployment. It just went very smooth.”

Submarines like Miami have the capability to be on scene but unseen. In many situations, only U.S. submarines can monitor potential adversaries and possible terrorists without their knowledge. The submarine’s ability to persistently and clandestinely observe, from any ocean in the world, provides our national security decision-makers with a non-provocative option to monitor emerging threats to our nation.

Submarines like Miami bring stealth, agility, firepower, and endurance. They are multi-mission capable, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and, if necessary, early strikes from close proximity. They can also deploy and support Special Forces, disrupt and destroy an adversary’s operations at sea, and ensure undersea superiority.

Miami is the third U.S. Navy ship of that name. The first, a side-wheel, double-ended Civil War gunboat built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and commissioned in 1862, was named for the Miami River in Ohio. The second, a World War II light cruiser built at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company in Philadelphia and commissioned in December 1943, bore the name of the rapidly growing city in southern Florida. Today’s Miami, which also bears the city’s name, was laid down Oct. 24, 1986, launched Nov. 12, 1988, and commissioned June 30, 1990.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Moore is a writer and photographer with Submarine Group TWO.

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