story & photos
by Eva Bunnel
On Pier 17 of the Naval Submarine Base New London, more than 200 family members and friends wore smiles as bright as the late November afternoon sun that warmed the day to unseasonably warm temperatures as they welcomed to homeport, the 132 crew members of the USS Toledo.
On November 29th, the USS Toledo and its crew of 15 Officers and 117 enlisted Sailors, came home after a six-month, “European Command Area of Responsibility where they executed the Chief of the Naval Operation’s Maritime Strategy in support of the national security interests and Maritime Security Operations. During deployment the Toledo made port calls in Faslane, Scotland and Rota, Spain.”
A trio of friends Shelby Law, Kaitlyn Long, and Bridget Nelson stood together by the pier holding their handmade signs that would help welcome their sailors home. They shared their excited anticipation for the moment they would be reunited with their significant others. They were happy that, for a time, “we get to keep our guys” with them at home.
The traditional “First Kiss,” was shared by Electronic Technician 2nd Class, Jarrod Pope, his wife, Ashlie and their eight and three- year- old daughters, Abigail, and Emilia. “First Hug” honors were shared by Fire Control Technician 1st Class, James Kaler and his wife Dianna, with their nine-month old son, Jonathan.
As happy reunions were taking place on the pier, perhaps the most excited individual was Avery Estrada, who happened to be celebrating that day both the return of her father, Chief Radio Officer Alan Estrada, and her eighth birthday.
Avery stood resolutely on the pier, ahead of the crowd, waving to the submarine as it was assisted to its dock by two tugboats. As she ran to her father, it was hard to not be moved to tears hearing her happy shouts when she caught first sight of her Dad.
Cmdr. Orville Cave, has been in command of the USS Toledo, a Los Angeles Class submarine for the last seventeen months. The USS Toledo is a “nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine.” “Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities-sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.”
Clearly proud of the USS Toledo’s crew, Cmdr. Cave shared that the members of his crew were “outstanding” in the six months they were out to sea, and that “they train hard for years to be ready for deployment.” During their deployment, Cave said, “morale was always great.” However, in the days leading up to coming home, he said with a smile, “the energy level was, as one can expect, a bit higher than normal.”
The USS Toledo is “the 81st Los Angeles-class submarine and the second U.S. Navy ship to be named for the city of Toledo.”