USS North Dakota returns home to Groton after six month deployment but with changes to homecoming due to pandemic

New London

GROTON, Conn. (WTNH)– The USS North Dakota returns home after a six month deployment. A lot has happened during that time, including the birth of three babies.

Like most homecomings, excited families gathered at Submarine Base New London in Groton to wait for their loved ones to get off the USS North Dakota and into their arms.

Four-year-old twins Hunter and Haylee Hayes tell News 8 what they will say to their dad once they get to see him after the six month deployment.  “Love you. Love you,” they said.

But this year those reunions are a bit different. No longer do families rush onto the pier. Instead they drive onto the base in their own cars.

“We do a COVID screening station. We have a questionnaire that we’re going to ask them,” said CMDCM Joshua Sturgill, the Command Master Chief for SUBRON 4.

They then sit in those cars and wait for the sailor to come to them.

“We have 73 vehicles for a total of 186 family members that were able to make it,” said CMDCM Sturgill.

There are still lots of signs and excited families and even the traditional first kiss. That honor when to the Williams family. 

“It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful,” said Samantha Williams. “We’re so relieved for this part to be over.”

Next was the first hug.

“We missed you. I missed you too,” could be heard during the reunion with William Hayes and his family. “Daddy,” another child said with a laugh.

Hayes got four big hugs from his three kids Hunter, Haylee, and Madelynn and his wife Ashley.

“They got so big huh?” Ashley Hayes asked her husband. “ Yeah they’re like a foot taller,” he agreed.

From there groups of ten to fifteen sailors armed with maps of all the cars came off the submarine in search of their loved ones. 

News 8 asked one Sailor how it felt to see his family. “Oh it’s good,” he said. “It’s real good.”

A lot happened while these Sailors were away. Three babies were born but those sailors were able to stay home to be with their families. 132 others manned this mission.

During the deployment, eight officers and 22 enlisted sailors earned their qualifications in submarine warfare.

Timothy Brooks will be getting a home cooked holiday meal tonight. 

“He said he wanted Thanksgiving meal. So that’s what we’re gonna do,” said his mother Chris Brooks.

She had tears in her eyes and she welcomed him home.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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