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Seaman Dachmon Ruge, a mess specialist aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, grills burgers in front of the carrier to celebrate the ship's return from drydock Friday at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.
Seaman Dachmon Ruge, a mess specialist aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, grills burgers in front of the carrier to celebrate the ship's return from drydock Friday at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — After five months in dry dock, the USS Kitty Hawk is nearing its return to normalcy.

To celebrate, 2,500 sailors aboard the carrier and about 400 others from the Yokosuka Ship Repair Facility, along with Japanese contractors who worked on the ship, spent Friday afternoon pier-side enjoying an old-fashioned picnic.

The Kitty Hawk, the Navy’s oldest active ship, was in dry dock from May 20 to Sept. 10 for repairs and upgrades.

The carrier’s hull was sandblasted, primed and painted, and its hangar bay was refitted and crew quarters renovated.

Assigned sailors worked harder than usual to get everything fixed and ready to go, said Master Chief Petty Officer Mike Baker, lead chief petty officer for the ship’s supply department.

“We’re finally getting a chance to unwind before getting under way,” Baker said Friday.

The picnic’s menu — 1,500 pounds of hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, chicken and the fixings — was designed to fill the caloric requirements and tastes of its participants: 17- to 25-year-old sailors, Baker said.

“It’s better than being indoors,” Seaman Dachmon Ruge, a Kitty Hawk mess specialist, said as he flipped burgers.

“Get to be with the rest of the crew, which we never get to do.”

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