The Navy’s three-carrier crew swap will begin today, with USS George Washington (CVN-73) set to arrive at Naval Air Station North Island to swap crews with USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) before heading to Newport News, Va., for its mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH).
George Washington had been forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan since 2008 and was the only carrier homeported abroad. It departed Japan for the last time in May, stopping to participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 with Australia and New Zealand before patrolling U.S. 7th Fleet for the last time and eventually sailing to Hawaii and then California.
The carrier will stay in San Diego for 10 days, where it will swap crews with Ronald Reagan. The ship will then head to Virginia, where it will await its RCOH in fall 2016.
Ronald Reagan will then depart San Diego and go to Yokosuka to serve as the new forward-stationed carrier – bringing one of the newest carriers to the increasingly important area of operations and returning the forward-stationed crew to their homes in Japan.
“We are sending one of our most advanced carriers to join our forward deployed forces in Japan to support the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in a Navy statement. The ship received many system upgrades during its last maintenance period, including the new Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) operating environment.
“Sending USS Ronald Reagan demonstrates our continued commitment to the region and ensures the Navy is where it matters, when it matters.”
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) already left Virginia in March for an around-the-world deployment, which has included supporting operations against ISIS, and it is expected to return to its new homeport in San Diego in late fall. TR will then serve as the new U.S. 3rd Fleet rotational carrier.
When the three-ship and three-crew swap is complete, about two-thirds of each crew will remain in their previous homeport and one-third will remain with their original ship. The move cuts down on permanent change of station (PCS) costs – about $41 million in savings, the Navy announced – while allowing some continuity between the sailors and their specific hulls.
“Reactor Department personnel will remain with their respective hull as well as a small number of personnel deemed critical to the ship’s operations, such as the ship’s commanding officer and executive officer,” according to the Navy statement.
“Command master chiefs will remain with their respective crews. Each ship will go through tailored training for the new crew following the personnel swap.”