The guided-missile sub Florida arrives at Kings Bay, Ga., on April 29, 2011, after a 15-month deployment that included more than 90 Tomahawk missile launches in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (Navy)
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It’s been two years since the guided-missile submarine Florida fired more than 90 Tomahawk missiles over Libya.
Last month, as the March 19 anniversary approached, the sub’s sailors were given the Navy Unit Commendation, an award for extraordinary action against an enemy. The unit ribbon is comparable to the Silver Star for individual combat heroism.
Five ships responded March 19, 2011, firing 221 Tomahawk missiles on Libyan targets, the Navy reported. The attacks were part of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the military operation that stemmed from the civil war among Libyan citizens and those loyal to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
About 45 percent of the Tomahawks fired came from Florida.
“I am extremely proud of my crew,” said Capt. Tom Calabrese, Florida’s commanding officer at the time of the strike. Calabrese currently serves with Naval ROTC at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “They displayed initiative, quiet confidence, technical competence and professionalism.”
The Navy Unit Commendation can be presented to any ship, aircraft, detachment or other unit of the Navy and Marine Corps. Florida received the award in a Feb. 15 ceremony at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga.
Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Kiel Farley, who served on Florida during the Libya strike, said the crew tried to remain calm.
“I wouldn’t say the atmosphere was nervous. We were excited,” Farley said. “Anytime we get to execute a mission, we’re all about it, we’re 100 percent gung ho to go out and do what we’ve trained to do.”
Leading up to and during the mission, sub leadership kept crew members updated on what was going on above the water, Farley said.
“It helps you understand what you’re doing and who you’re helping,” he said. “The captain would keep us updated daily on the goings-on of the country and the NATO operation itself, and that really makes you feel like you’re helping out and doing your part.”
While the crew was always close-knit, Farley said going through the strike brought the men even closer together.
Though sailors aboard the Florida didn’t know how much of an impact they were having at the beginning of the strike, their captain soon filled them in on the history they were making.
“Towards the end, our captain started relaying to us that we were definitely setting some naval milestones with regard to strike warfare,” Farley said.
The actions marked the first time a guided-missile sub launched Tomahawks in battle, a Navy news release said.
Farley, who is stationed at Trident Training Facility in Kings Bay, said participating in the strike was a career highlight.
All the submariners who served aboard the Florida for the strike have moved on to other commands, said Lt. Leslie Hubbell, spokeswoman for Submarine Group 10.
The current commanding officer of Florida’s gold crew, Capt. David Kirk, accepted the award on their behalf.
Submarines have played a greater role in recent land conflicts. While the submarine force launched only 5 percent of the Tomahawk missiles fired during Operation Desert Storm, that number jumped to 33 percent during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Today, the submarine force accounts for more than 50 percent of Tomahawks fired, the Navy release said.