By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs
GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The families of Sailors assigned to the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755) received an early holiday gift this year when the submarine returned to Naval Submarine Base New London, Dec. 15, following a regularly scheduled five-month deployment.
Miami, which departed for deployment July 14, conducted maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.
Commanded by Cmdr. Roger Meyer, Miami visited ports in Haakonsvern, Norway; Faslane, Scotland; Portsmouth, England and Rota, Spain.
"The entire crew of USS Miami fully embraced their role as ambassadors for our Navy and country," said Meyer, a native of Blue Grass, Iowa, who assumed command of the boat in September 2010.
Throughout their deployment, the crew fine-tuned their skill sets, becoming true undersea warriors.
"Our team integrated the talents of multiple commands into one cohesive team, developing undersea warriors with the skills necessary to be competent and disciplined operators and maintainers while executing missions vital to national security," said Meyer.
Recognizing their contributions to the submarine force, several crew members aboard Miami were advanced to the next rank and earned warfare qualifications during a ceremony on Nov. 30 while in port Portsmouth, England.
During that ceremony, five Sailors received their enlisted submarine warfare qualification pins, and eight others were advanced to the rank of Petty Officer 3rd Class aboard the historic British Royal Navy ship HMS Victory, which is the oldest commissioned warship in the world.
Other Sailors had reasons to celebrate. During their deployment seven babies were born. One of the lucky fathers was Senior Chief Electrician's Mate Ryan Rolfe, who was able to hold his three-month old son, Joseph, for the first time.
During the Miami's deployment, Rolfe's wife Lillian was chosen to participate in a group baby shower with 19 other military wives. The event, sponsored by the non-profit organization Operation Shower and Birdies for the Brave, marked the first time it was held in Connecticut and for wives of submariners.
"As military spouses, we forget how different our lives are. We are used to having an empty bed to crawl into and end of the day, making big decisions, planning birthday parties, attending school events, and finding housing on our own," said Rolfe.
USS Miami Ombudsman April Holtmeyer, a mother of two, expressed her excitement for the reunion of Sailors and their families, as well as the remaining crew members just in time for the holidays.
"Holiday Homecomings add an extra special sense of reunion. Our families exemplified strength during this deployment by utilizing the greatest asset - each other. This sisterhood was essential in the success of maintaining normal," said Holtmeyer.
As the Sailors departed the submarine and reunited with their families, the fathers recognized their children by presenting them with medals as a token of their appreciation.
With nearly 50 percent of the 134-member crew aboard Miami being married with children, support for families had new meaning for the deployed fathers, said USS Miami Family Readiness Group President Christy Thomas, a mother of two.
"The kids are the heroes in their dads' eyes because they have thrived in their daily lives while they have been gone," said Thomas.
During the submarine's deployment, Thomas, Holtmeyer and other wives coordinated with the non-profit organization Operation Gratitude to receive gift boxes. More than 150 children of the deployed Sailors were recognized during National Military Family Appreciation Month, which occurs in November every year.
Miami's family-focused homecoming included Santa riding aboard Miami as the submarine pulled into Naval Submarine Base New London. In addition, the Steve Elci & Friends band performed, a first for the Connecticut performers, best known for writing the song, "Submarine Town."
The submarine, built by Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat Division, is the third Navy vessel to bear the name of the city of Miami, Florida. The submarine's crew compliment includes 133 officers and enlisted Sailors.
Miami's return was preceeded by Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700) Dec. 14.
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