Saturday, May 23, 2009

USS Hartford Returns to Homeport

By Lt. Patrick L. Evans, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs Officer

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Los Angeles class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) returned to Naval Submarine Base, New London May 21 after a month-long surface transit from Bahrain.

After that long ride, Hartford is expected to enter Electric Boat shipyard for a thorough inspection to assess required repairs following the March 20 collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) in the Strait of Hormuz.

Cmdr. Chris Harkins, deputy commander, Submarine Squadron 8, commanded Hartford for the transit back stateside. Harkins took command of the submarine after the commanding officer of Hartford during the collision, Cmdr. Ryan Brookhart, was relieved on April 14 by Rear Adm. Michael J. Connor, commander, Task Force 54 (CTF 54) and commander, Submarine Group 7.

"I was amazed by the crew. They were still engaged. They welcomed me. They were very responsive, and it made my job a lot easier," said Harkins. "When I relieved, we got to work, got the ship trained up and all the equipment certified. The crew worked as a team. They hung in there and did not give up until we were pierside in Groton."

Harkins will return to his position as deputy commander of Submarine Squadron 8 in Norfolk when Cmdr. Robert Dunn takes command of Hartford. The turnover process is underway.

Family members, friends and shipmates dotted the pier to welcome Hartford home.

"They've been gone for a long time. They've been through a pretty traumatic ordeal. We're glad to have them home so we can continue with the recovery process and get the ship back into operational status and ready to go," said Capt. Harvey Guffey, deputy commander of Submarine Squadron 4.

The plan for Hartford, according to Guffey, is to allow the families to conduct a normal stand down for about a month. Then the submarine will head to the shipyard for inspection and assessment in July. The recovery and repair plan is still to be determined.

USS New Orleans returned to sea May 13, fully mission capable after completing repairs at the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY) Shipyard dry dock in Manama, Bahrain.

Two formal investigations have been completed; a Safety Investigation and a Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) Investigation. Both are currently undergoing endorsement reviews, which are expected to take several months to complete.