USS Ronald Reagan wraps up shipyard work, heads home
Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash.
BREMERTON, Wash. — Bremerton, a three-carrier town a year ago, now has none.
The USS Ronald Reagan departed Monday morning for its San Diego home after 14 months of work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. Bremerton-based USS John C. Stennis is wrapping up an eight-month deployment to the Middle East and won’t be back until early May.
The Reagan crew, shipyard workers and contractors completed what the Navy calls a Docked Planned Incremental Availability — $218 million in maintenance and upgraded systems, much of it performed in dry dock. Projects ranged from preserving the ship’s exterior and island, complete overhaul of its internal computer network, and work on the main engines and rudders.
“Our crew had a huge task laid before them, but, on every level, our sailors met or exceeded expectation,” said Capt. Thom Burke, Reagan’s commanding officer, in a statement issued as the ship pulled away from the pier.
Many sailors conducted work for which they had no experience, and there were unexpected challenges, but the ship’s crew partnered with shipyard tradesman to complete it.
Sailors also performed many community service projects throughout Kitsap County.
“From the time and effort our chiefs’ mess spent helping to revitalize the Tomb of the Unknown at Ivy Green Cemetery to the weekends our junior sailors volunteered at the local veterans home, we made it a point to serve those around us,” Burke said. “It was a great pleasure to become a part of Bremerton, and we can’t thank you enough for allowing us that opportunity.”
Early last March, while the Reagan was in dry dock and the Stennis was back from an 8-month deployment, the USS Nimitz was also at the pier, wrapping up similar work before heading for its new home of Naval Station Everett. All three were together for just a few days.
Reagan, like Nimitz before it, had its homeport temporarily changed to Bremerton so the sailors’ families could join them, though many didn’t because it would have meant moving during the holidays for the second straight year.
Reagan is headed back to Naval Base Coronado, but its future isn’t clear. It will rejoin the West Coast deployment cycle, which includes the Middle East and western Pacific Ocean. The ship isn’t scheduled to deploy for some time, said Cmdr. Kevin Stephens of Naval Air Forces Pacific, and budget problems jeopardize its time on the water.
“It’s going to affect all of our training schedules,” he said of sequestration and the continuing resolution. “There’s still a lot of planning being done to determine exactly what those impacts are going to be. We expect to begin shutting down carrier air wings and dramatically reduce training. We’re not going to need a carrier out there if we’re doing less aircrew training.”
Stennis was in Dubai over the weekend for a port visit to Jebel Ali. It will be replaced by the USS Eisenhower, which left Virginia on Feb. 21.
The story has been changed to correct the length of the Stennis deployments.