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See Stripes' coverage of the ship's arrival at Yokosuka

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The news came in 2005: The nuclear-propelled aircraft carrier USS George Washington was headed to the Far East.

It would be the first nuclear-powered ship forward-deployed to Japan.

In the days, months and years following the announcement, the carrier’s future arrival prompted glowing words about "a new age" in Pacific security from proponents, referendum votes and rallies from opponents. It prompted new exchanges between U.S. and Japanese leaders. Stateside, Japanese leaders and media were taken on Navy-led trips to see the American view of nuclear-propulsion ships.

In Japan, to show "openness" and "cooperation" with their Japanese allies, Navy leaders participated for the first time in emergency drills where the scenario was "leaked coolant water" from the USS George Washington.

The announced arrival of the carrier even prompted the creation of a Japanese-style comic book to explain ship life to the Japanese public.

"It’s a historic event," said Commander U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. Ron Steiner last month after the ship left San Diego’s North Island and headed this way. "We look forward to having more capabilities for the Japanese-American alliance."

At the base, numerous preparations have been made — for both the carrier and the people assigned to it.

"The base has never had the experience of getting 2,700 new people at once," said Fleet and Family Support Center Work and Family Life specialist Angela LeMay. "It’s now a matter of welcoming them into our community."

Japanese businesses outside base gates also are putting on their game faces for the shot in the arm of new customers.

More than 40 businesses recently put "base-friendly" stickers in their windows "that will help the George Washington sailors and families learn where to go," said base community relations specialist Kyoko Sugita.

Local bars also have been put on alert for the spike of liberty incidents statistically associated with the arrival of a new aircraft carrier, said Yokosuka’s commanding officer Capt. Daniel Weed.

"The base will be offering extended hours at the Navy Exchange and MWR when the ship comes in," Weed said, adding that putting a couple bars off-limits this summer has already cut incidents drastically.

"Some of the bars even make PA announcements, telling people to go home," he said.

As for the George Washington’s families, they are more than ready for their ship to come in, as many arrived ahead of the carrier.

Spouse Erica Curtin arrived in April. If she could, she said, she would tell the sailors and lingering families in the States to get here as soon as they can.

"I would tell them, ‘Hurry up — you’re missing the fun.’" Curtin said.

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USS George Washington facts and figures

Type of vessel: Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Company

Contract date: Dec. 27, 1982

Keel laid: Aug. 25, 1986

Christened: July 21, 1990

Commissioned: July 4, 1992

Propulsion: Two nuclear reactors that permit the ship to steam for almost 18 years before refueling.

Speed: More than 30 knots

Length and width of flight deck: 1,092 feet by 275 feet

Flight deck area: 4.5 acres

Height (keel to mast): 244 feet

Combat load displacement: 97,000 tons

Number of aircraft with embarked airwing: About 75

Aircraft elevators: Four, each 3,880 square feet

Number of aircraft catapults: Four

Number of propellers: Four, each 22 feet in diameter, brass, five-bladed and weighing 66,200 pounds

Number of anchors: Two, each weighing about 30 tons

Crew accommodations: 6,250

Meals served daily: 18,000

Number of compartments and spaces: 3,360

Number of telephones: 2,000

Capacity of air conditioning system: 3,267 tons

Daily capacity of fresh water distilling plants: 400,000 gallons, enough to supply 2,000 homes

Lighting fixtures: 30,000

Length of wiring and cable: More than 1,400 miles

Tons of structural steel: 60,000

Source: USS George Washington Web site


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