Chancellorsville crew finds moving a bittersweet chore
Stars and Stripes August 31, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — There’s one thing they won’t miss: writing “USS Chancellorsville” umpteen times a day.
Chancellorsville sailors have increased risks of carpal tunnel syndrome, kidded the crew aboard the ship Monday. “We’re going from 16 letters to six,” joked Senior Chief Petty Officer Terry Smith. “What a relief.”
But beyond the name (and upgraded combat and navigation systems) nothing much will change when crews from the Chancellorsville and USS Shiloh swap at Yokosuka Naval Base in the next few weeks. That’s because almost 100 percent of the sailors will trade places.
“It’s a pretty unique to turn over the entire crew,” said Capt. King Dietrich, Chancellorsville (soon to be Shiloh) commanding officer. “But I think it’s going to save us a lot of aggravation and the Navy some money.”
The crews of both ships — roughly 370 each — have two weeks to switch places before the Chancellorsville is to sail to its new permanent base of San Diego. The move has been in the works for months. Consequently, affected Chancellorsville sailors spent the last months getting certified, going to schools and spending time aboard Shiloh to get trained on the upgraded ballistic missile defense system.
“We wanted to do the training under way, not pierside,” Dietrich said. “So by the time the Shiloh is ready to leave, we’ll have a fully certified crew.”
Although the crew is staying together, questions still arise during the move, like “Who gets to keep the Japanese coffee machine?” and “will ‘taco Tuesday’ still be on Tuesday?” said Chancellorsville spokeswoman Ensign Erin Virdone.
“You have to decide what stays and what goes — and sometimes you get attached to the little things and routines,” Virdone said. “Everybody loves taco night but now we’re taking on Shiloh’s food stores so we’re switching eating schedules.”
Chancellorsville sailors have to give up their brand-new mattresses but get to keep their toolboxes. Petty Officer 2nd Class David Labaco, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Dollison and Chief Petty Officer-selectee Maximiliano Pino III said this came as a releif. They’d have liked to move their entire shops over. “You put your blood, sweat and tears into organizing and getting the space just right,” Labaco said. “Then you have to start over.”
Dietrich likens it to moving a household.
“You have to pack everything up, then get everything cleaned up and working for the next crew,” Dietrich said. “It’s pride in ownership … you don’t want to stick the next guy with your problems. It’s hard work, though, when you’re trying to do your regular job on top of everything.”
Dietrich is looking forward to the Shiloh’s upgrades but called leaving the Chancellorsville “bittersweet.”
“We’re both giving up something that’s a part of us,” he told Capt. Kevin Eyer, Shiloh (soon Chancellorsville) commanding officer. “Take good care of her.”