The guided missile submarine USS Florida has returned to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay after a forward deployment lasting more than 800 days.
The deployment may be the longest ever by a submarine home ported at Kings Bay. The boat, one of the Navy’s four guided missile submarines, sailed more than 98,000 nautical miles — the equivalent of nearly four times around the world. It supported the Central and European, and African combatant commands while at sea.
“For the past 30 months, USS Florida has been forward deployed, providing our combatant commanders with not only one of the most versatile and clandestine platforms the United States Navy has to offer, but also one capable of delivering an absolutely devastating punch at our timing and tempo,” said Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, Naval Submarine Forces.
Two crews, Blue and Gold, swapped duties aboard the boat every three months. The crews of 160 sailors and officers normally exchange places in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, but for the first time the crews also switched in Souda Bay in Greece, where the boat’s first continuous maintenance availability was performed.
During its time away, 202 sailors earned Dolphins Pin signifying they are qualified to serve aboard a submarine.
Reamstown, Pa., native Capt. Brian Tothero, commanding officer of the Florida’s Blue Crew, said it was nice to return to Kings Bay after a long deployment.
“Most submarines don’t operate forward deployed like this for this amount of time, especially without a real home base,” he said. “So after being sort of homeless for the past 30 months, it’s nice to be back in Kings Bay.”
The Florida is among four Ohio-class submarines that were converted from a ballistic-missile submarine to carry a payload of up to 154 non-nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles. The boat can also hold as many as 66 special operation forces who can conduct missions in coastal areas without the submarine surfacing.
When the Florida arrived at Kings Bay in 2003, Navy officials explained the versatility of the converted submarine and said they expected the boat to be deployed as long as a year.
Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander of Submarine Group 10, said it took a group effort to stay deployed so long.
“For over 800 days you have stood the watch. That’s a true testimony to resiliency, hard work, perseverance and toughness,” Bernacchi said. “You, the crew, the family, the support staff, and, of course, the ship, remind us of why we are proud to be a part of the submarine force and proud to be a part of Team Kings Bay.”
The Florida will remain at Kings Bay for the next year for an extended refit period before it deploys again. But that doesn’t mean the crews are taking a yearlong vacation.
“As always in the submarine force, there is no rest for the weary,” said Capt. William Patterson, commodore, Submarine Squadron 16. “The teams will immediately transition into a complex maintenance period that will rapidly turn the boat around for their next deployment. I fully expect this new challenge will be met with the same tenacity and determination that is the hallmark of Team Florida.”