by ET2 Mark Moore
photos by MC1 Steven Myers
Los Angeles Class Attack Submarine USS San Juan (SSN 751) returned to Naval Submarine Base New London, Dec. 1, following a regularly scheduled six-month deployment to the U.S. European (EUCOM) and Africa Command (AFRICOM) areas of responsibility (AORs).
San Juan made history during the deployment when she pulled into Simon’s Town, South Africa, Nov. 4, setting the stage for a series of first-ever, at-sea engagements with the South African Navy submarine force.
“It was a unique experience,” said Lt. J.G. Jason Patton, who rode aboard one of the South African submarines for three days during the deployment. “Their submarine is much smaller than ours. Also, it was a diesel submarine and not nuclear. It’s a very capable platform. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I feel very lucky and blessed to be able to be one of the few that got to experience it.”
In addition to South Africa, San Juan’s 134 officers and crew members acted as ambassadors for the United States while conducting port calls in Souda Bay, Greece; Diego Garcia; and Port Victoria, Seychelles.
“It was an amazing deployment, which began June 1,” said Cmdr. Ollie Lewis, Commanding Officer of USS San Juan. “I was incredibly impressed. The crew came together at every opportunity in order to make a difference. The operations we were involved in had a direct impact on the Global War on Terror. The ground breaking diplomacy with the South African Navy really gave us an opportunity to learn so much about them and them about us.”
While making its historic port call in Simon’s Town, San Juan worked with and learned from the South African navy on various maritime pursuits, including regional security cooperation activities, military-to-military exchanges and community relations activities.
“This historic visit is a sign of our continued friendship with South Africa and another important step in our efforts to work together in addressing maritime issues,” said Lewis. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with a peer navy and submarine force, and believe both our Navy and [South Africa’s] will benefit from this exchange.”
San Juan is the first submarine to return to home port for the holiday season in December and many family members were eager for the return of their loved ones.
“It’s been a really long time,” said Heather McCoy, wife of Chief Electrician’s Mate Michael J. McCoy. “I’m very excited. This is the longest deployment we’ve done. We’re used to boomer (Ohio class submarines) life. So, this is long for us. The longest we’ve ever done is three months. This is twice as long.” The McCoys, including their daughters Kaitlynn, 9, and Brittanny, 15, were designated to receive the traditional “First Hug.”
Also Aisling Hatch, 21, received the traditional “First Kiss” from her husband, Sonar Technician Third Class Tad Hatch.
San Juan is the third ship of the U.S. Navy to be named for Puerto Rico’s capital city. The first San Juan (SP 1352) was acquired by the Navy from the San Juan Packing Company of Seattle and used as a minesweeper and patrol boat during World War I. The second vessel (CL 54) was an Atlanta-class anti-aircraft cruiser that served during World War II.
San Juan’s keel was laid Aug. 9, 1985. The submarine was launched Dec. 6, 1986 and commissioned Aug. 6, 1988.