The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, here en route to a port visit in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, will move to Japan in 2015. (MC3 Joshua Scott/US Navy)
Plans to shuffle home ports for three aircraft carriers are part of the US Navy’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its Pacific presence, the fleet said in a Tuesday news release.
The Ronald Reagan, now based in San Diego, will move to Yokosuka, Japan, replacing the George Washington, which will head to Virginia’s Newport News Shipbuilding to begin its midlife overhaul, according to the release. The Theodore Roosevelt will move from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego “as part of the rebalance strategy to increase the Navy’s presence in the Pacific Fleet,” the release states.
While the ships may move, many sailors will stay put, a Navy spokesman said.
“Sailors in key leadership positions, sailors with certain specializations or skill sets specific to a particular aircraft carrier may be required to make such moves,” Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesman for Naval Air Forces, said in a statement to Navy Times on Tuesday, but “the Navy’s goal is to minimize the impact the ships’ relocations have on personnel.
“The Navy is making every effort to avoid unnecessary permanent change-of-station moves for sailors and their families due to the relocation.”
The Navy has not announced a time for any of the moves. Multiple media outlets have reported Reagan will shift to Japan in August 2015, with George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt reaching their new homes in November of that year.
The moves may be nearly two years away, but the fleet will begin working with sailors aboard the affected carriers almost immediately, Stephens said:
■ “Personnel action teams,” with members from both Navy Personnel Command and carrier leadership, will be on each carrier by next month.
■ Specific guidance from NPC to each carrier regarding “personnel-related concerns” will be issued by March.
■ Working groups will be setup at Millington, Tenn., in April to “synchronize manning and personnel initiatives specific to the home-port changes.”
Also, every sailor affected by the move will have the chance to meet with a “home-port change coordinator” and a personnel action team member to address any specific issues.
Carrier Air Wing 5 will remain at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, according to the release.
The Theodore Roosevelt completed its 41-month refueling and complex overhaul at Newport News in August. The George Washington, which became the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ever stationed in Japan when it moved there to replace the Kitty Hawk in 2008, was commissioned in 1992; each carrier is set to go through the major overhaul once during its expected 50-year lifespan.
The carrier Abraham Lincoln is undergoing its RCOH at Newport News and is set to rejoin the fleet by 2017.
Reagan’s last trip to Japan came in 2011 as part of relief efforts in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Some sailors who were aboard the ship are suing a Japanese power company, saying the Navy wasn’t properly informed of the radiation levels in the region, resulting in sailors’ health problems.