After two and a half years away from home, the guided-missile submarine Florida returned to its home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, last week.

The boat got back on May 9 after an unusually long deployment that saw it supporting operations for U.S. Africa, Central and European Commands, according to a Navy release.

While officials declined to say exactly what Florida was doing during the extensive time it was away, the boat “provided unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities, bringing mission flexibility and unparalleled stealth to the fighting force,” the release states.

Such subs are manned by alternating blue and gold crews, which ran the sub for three-month stints at a time.

Off crews returned to Georgia for training and qualifications, according to Submarine Group 10 spokeswoman Lt. Katie Diener.

“Most submarines don’t operate forward deployed like this for this amount of time, especially without a real home base,” the blue crew commander, Capt. Brian Tothero, said in a statement. “So, after being sort of homeless for the past 30 months, it’s nice to be back in Kings Bay.”

After its 1983 commissioning as a ballistic missile sub, Florida was converted into one of four guided-missile submarines in 2003, according to the Navy release.

Guided-missile subs run on longer operational cycles than other boats and can remain forward deployed longer since they use the Ohio-class dual crew concept.

“A 30-month deployment, however, is not typical for a guided-missile submarine,” Diener said.

Florida kept it moving for much of the 800-plus days it was away from home, with two maintenance stints lasting three to four weeks each conducted at Souda Bay, Greece, and Diego Garcia, Diener said.

Crews also made 11 port visits during the deployment, during which time the boat sailed nearly 100,000 nautical miles and pinned 202 new submariners with their dolphins.

Such boats can host up to 66 special operators and feature extra berthing in the missile compartment to accommodate those personnel, according to the Navy.

Two forward missile tubes on guided-missile subs have been converted into “lock-out chambers,” from which special forces can deploy and reenter the sub.

Sub Group 10 commander Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi lauded the Florida’s crews in the Navy release announcing the boat’s homecoming.

“For over 800 days you have stood the watch,” he said. “That’s a true testimony to resiliency, hard work, perseverance and toughness.”

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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