From World War I to today, the mission for submarines has remained constant -- denying hostile forces navigation of the seas, detecting and engaging with enemy vessels, and delivering special forces to far flung regions and then pulling them out when the operation is complete.
"Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts broadcasted live this morning from the U.S.S. Scranton. Under water in the north Atlantic Ocean, Roberts listened to dolphins and whales, slept in one of bunks and spent time with submariners enjoying some down time playing video golf, watching movies and playing cards.
At 362 feet long and 33 feet wide, Roberts learned that U.S.S. Scranton seems huge -- until you're on it.
"Undoubtedly the biggest surprise when you first go on a submarine is how much stuff there is -- every square inch is used," said Lt. Ken Delage. "The second thing that you notice is how cramped it is -- 150 people living on top of each other -- it is really impossible to imagine unless you've been on it."
There aren't enough beds to go around, so men share beds, sleeping on them during different shifts, a practice called "hot racking."
Fortunately, the submariners said the food is good -- Wednesday is burger day and Saturday is pizza day. Only the captain is allowed to make culinary requests.
The highly trained all-male crew is deployed for six months at a time -- often underwater and out of contact with the outside world.
"You don't get sunlight every day, you don't get letters from home," Delage said. "It's one of the hardest assignments because of the isolation."
Chief of the Boat Scott Lenz called the six month deployment "tough but gratifying."
"Submariners are a tight knit group," he said. "They are very professional, the most dedicated group of individuals I have ever served with. We count on each other and back each other up."
The submariners stay in touch with their families over email.
"We all have cameras and we try to email them about everything," said Lesa Elder, president of the Family Support Group, which plans social activities for the submariners' wives while their husbands are deployed. "A lot of us have camcorders also."
But the wives can't take pictures of everything. Tracey Eppolito was disappointed when her submariner husband missed seeing their daughter's first steps.
"I was a little heartbroken," Eppolito said. "I couldn't take a picture because I was by myself and I had my arms stretched out."
The wives don't know when their husbands will return. But sometimes ombudsman Allison Lloyd, who serves as a liaison between the sub's commanding officer and the families, does. Because it's classified, Lloyd must communicate any information about the schedules using codes. For example, the return date is confidential until about 48-hours out, but she was able to tell one of the wives "it's two days after your husband's birthday."