PEARL HARBOR –
The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Mississippi (SSN 782) was welcomed to the Pearl Harbor waterfront at an aloha ceremony Nov. 25, as the newest submarine permanently assigned to Submarine Squadron 1 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The arrival of Mississippi makes her the 4th Virginia-class submarine to be home ported in Pearl Harbor, and one of 18 fast-attack submarines permanently homeported at the historic base.
"The general aura of the crew is that of excitement in becoming part of a great ohana (family) in Submarine Squadron 1 and Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet," said Cmdr. Tory Swanson, the ship's commanding officer, a native of Arvada, Colorado, and a graduate of Perdue University. "Many were ready to set forth out west like the old frontiersmen, looking for adventure in the unknown of the Pacific. The crew is looking forward to the sunshine, warmth and aloha of Hawaii."
The submarine arrived at Pearl Harbor to a crowd of families, fellow submariners, veterans and supporters, having left weeks earlier from Submarine Squadron 4 in Groton, Connecticut.
Swanson noted Mississippi and her crew started the transition nearly a year ago with assistance from Naval Submarine Support Command Pearl Harbor, Submarine Squadron 1, and several other organizations in the Pearl Harbor area.
"The chief of the boat and I have done four changes of homeports in our careers, and we were able to take lessons learned from our experiences to help make the transition fairly seamless for the families," said Swanson. "Our command philosophy centers on mission first, Sailors always."
In January, the crew conducted a deployment night for all of the families to introduce Pearl Harbor staff, housing offices and answer questions families had well in advance of their arrival to their permanent homeport. Additionally, the Family Readiness Group utilized social media to communicate with spouses and family at a moment's notice to answer any difficult questions that arose.
Swanson added this preplanning allowed most all of the families to move to Pearl Harbor seamlessly, and have a great support structure already in place.
Swanson said Mississippi's ship technology, along with a focused and energetic crew aboard the vessel, will provide a great variety and coverage for missions vital to national security and any tasking from the operational commanders. Mississippi offers the submarine force's newest technologies, along with accommodation for special operations forces and dry-dock shelter operations.
"We are ready to demonstrate our prowess as WESTPAC (Western Pacific) warriors and bring the great capabilities and stealth of the Virginia-class to the Pacific Fleet," said Swanson. "This is the newest submarine in the Pacific Fleet, and we are proud of her material condition and the hard work the crew put into it."
Interest was evident on the pier.
Allison Stiller, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for ship programs, and the ship's sponsor, was present to welcome the submarine to the Pearl Harbor waterfront. She was also on hand to welcome the submarine into service at the commissioning ceremony on June 2, 2012, in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
"It is an exciting day," said Stiller. "I am so excited for them to finally make it here, and it's just a thrill for me to also be here, to be able to greet them when they come in. She's the best boat in the fleet and the best crew in the fleet."
Stiller said it is an honor to be the submarine's sponsor, and she loves every minute of it.
"The fact that you have a relationship with the boat for its entire life is awesome," said Stiller. "You get to meet so many folks who serve on USS Mississippi, and I am glad to be part of milestones like this arrival today."
Named for the state of Mississippi, her keel was laid down on June 9, 2010. The ninth in the Virginia class of submarines, Mississippi was christened Dec. 3, 2011.
"As with any warship, no matter how technologically advanced, it is the crew that sets us apart from others," said Swanson. "Everyone here is focused on the end goal, to take this marvel of modern technology on deployment at the tip of the spear and keep this great nation safe."
The crew of Mississippi was welcomed by family members with signs, banners and leis at the pier.
"I can't wait for my husband to get here," said Kelly Holbrook, wife of Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Holbrook, originally from Richmond, Kentucky. "We moved here to Hawaii 10 days after we got married and I've had a blast living here. It has been amazing."
Along with family and friends, the crew was greeted with a special Hawaiian cultural ceremony in honor of Mississippi, from Hawaiian native Pohaku Stone, who offered sacred warrior chants and song.
The ceremony continued as Stone led a blessing of the ship, which included participation from Capt. Harry Ganteaume, commodore of Submarine Squadron 1, Stiller, the ship's sponsor and the ship's leadership team.
"It is great that Mississippi is the newest submarine in the squadron," said Ganteaume. "We are looking forward to getting her ready to deploy. With all of her capabilities, she will be a strong contributor to our efforts overseas, in the Western Pacific and beyond."
The submarine is 377-feet long, displaces 7,800 tons, and can carry torpedoes as well as Tomahawk missiles and have features including a torpedo room that can be refigured to hold Navy SEALs.
Mississippi is the second submarine to newly arrive at Pearl Harbor this week, with the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) out of San Diego arriving Nov. 24 for a scheduled two-year maintenance overhaul period at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.