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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — If the USS Fort McHenry arrives here Wednesday, as many on the base believe it will, the crew will get red-carpet treatment via an evening holiday bash sponsored primarily by the Navy League Council of Sasebo.

Seventh Fleet spokesman, Chief Petty Officer Rick Chernitzer, couldn’t confirm the return because of a Navy policy about future ship movements.

The council started planning a party for single sailors several weeks ago, even though all but one of the base’s large amphibious ships were deployed.

The single sailor pool had dwindled with the USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Juneau patrolling in the North Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But the single sailors party still could draw from crews of 350 on the Fort McHenry, about 70 each on minesweepers USS Guardian and USS Patriot, about 80 on rescue and salvage ship USS Safeguard and about 300 assigned to shore.

The Fort McHenry left in early December for a humanitarian relief effort in the Philippines. That took some of the wind from the Navy League sails, although the party still was on, if shrinking.

But “we are very happy now that at least one of our large ships will be here when we throw the party at the Bowling Center Thursday night,” said Navy League Council President Jerry Havens.

He said the Navy League is encouraging all single sailors to attend, although any married sailor rank E-4 or below also is invited. However, Havens said, parents are asked not to bring children to the event.

As of Monday, the Navy League had accumulated $3,300 for the party, including $1,100 in door prizes, Havens added, through sources including donations from several base organizations.

Last week, rumors began circulating on Sasebo that the Fort McHenry was steaming back to the base. Seaman Rebecca Curtius, the sailor representative on the party committee, said interest in the event is high throughout the base. “Rumor has it,” she said, “that the crew is also quite excited.”

“We also plan to take plates of food to the security personnel on watch,” Curtius said. “We have some great door prizes including two DVD players and a 13-inch television with a built-in DVD player. I wouldn’t mind winning that one.”

Brenda James, wife of base commander Capt. Michael James, has organized a fleet of spouses to cook holiday fare to serve just outside the Bowling Center under tents assembled by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department.

The Single Sailors Celebration is at 6 p.m. through midnight Thursday and is free, including the meal, bowling, video games and use of the pool table in the Bowling Center. The home- cooked food will be served from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.


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