Hong Kong’s closed port surprises admiral
ARLINGTON, Va. — China’s decision to not allow the USS Kitty Hawk to dock in Hong Kong this Thanksgiving was “surprising” and “not helpful,” the Navy’s top admiral said Tuesday.
“The Kitty Hawk had been planning to go in there, and it was disruptive to many people’s plans,” Adm. Gary Roughead told Pentagon reporters.
Roughead said he was even more bothered by China’s decision last week to deny a request for two minesweepers based out of Sasebo, Japan, to refuel at Hong Kong.
The USS Patriot and Guardian ended up refueling while under way.
“As someone who’s been going to sea all my life, if there’s one tenet that we observe, it’s when someone’s in need, you provide, and you sort it out later,” Roughead said.
He said Chinese officials have yet to offer an explanation about why the Kitty Hawk and minesweepers were not allowed to dock at Hong Kong, but he looks forward to talking to his Chinese counterparts on the mater.
“That’s why I believe the mil-to-mil contacts are so important, because it’s — when we have opportunities to come together, we can talk about things like this, we can get a better insight, you know, what was behind it,” Roughead said.
He also said U.S. sailors will continue to visit Hong Kong.
Also Tuesday, Roughead said he expects the number of sailors deploying as individual augmentees to remain close to current levels.
Individual augmentees are sailors who deploy to supplement other services, typically the Army.
About half of augmentees get their basic combat training at Fort Jackson, S.C. Most of those sailors fill staff jobs and supporting billets as individuals, said Navy Capt. Jeff McKenzie, commanding officer of the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center.
Sailors who go downrange as ad hoc units go to one of about 15 Army installations for combat training and to learn mission-specific skills, he said. Course lengths vary depending on the augmentees’ missions, such as detainee operations and civil affairs.
All augmentees receive training designed to be challenging and prepare them for going downrange, McKenzie said.
Currently, about 6,400 individual augmentees are serving in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations, Roughead said.
“As I’ve told the sailors when I was out at CENTCOM, I expect that number to be right about where it is now, you know for the near term, and we’ll be making adjustments as we see the need for that support changing,” he said.