Kitty Hawk status change upsets families’ planning
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Extending USS Kitty Hawk’s Japan homeport status through 2009 was money in the bank for Tara Walzel.
Though the aircraft carrier would still leave the country in the spring, Walzel could work in Yokosuka through the summer, and her active-duty husband would still collect Japan post allowance as the ship sailed to Bremerton, Wash., for eventual decommissioning.
Now Walzel is prepping for a big punch in the pocketbook and a mad dash to move out of the country due to a Chief of Naval Operations message that moved the homeport date to July 15. A month ago, it was moved forward to Jan. 31, 2009.
Between the loss of employment, COLA and the new rent and housing costs precipitated by an earlier move, Walzel estimates the change will cost them more than $12,000, she said.
“We had everything lined up, and now it’s changed,” Walzel said. “It looks like we’re going to lose a lot of money out of pocket, and it feels like I’ve become jobless and homeless overnight.”
Many families are in the same boat, as last month’s town hall meetings touted the homeport extension from its original September date as a way to offset a potentially inconvenient delay in Bremerton for about 500 Kitty Hawk sailors.
Sailors were asked to volunteer to stay with the 47-year-old Kitty Hawk until the USS George H.W. Bush, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, is commissioned and makes good on a congressional mandate to have an 11-carrier Navy.
The commissioning of the George H.W. Bush has been delayed and is currently listed on its official Web site as “winter 2009.”
Another 900 Kitty Hawk sailors will “cross deck” to the USS George Washington in Hawaii and eventually return to Yokosuka this summer. The rest of the crew will move to other duty stations.
How the new date affects pack-outs, housing, orders and travel for Kitty Hawk sailors and families isn’t yet known. The full implications of the switch are still being assessed, Kitty Hawk spokesman Lt. Bill Clinton said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
“After we figure out the nuances, we will work hard to make sure that our sailors understand the change and how it will affect them and their families,” Clinton said.
The new message also specified the decommissioning date for the Kitty Hawk as Jan. 31, 2009.
Navy officials have not been able to get back to Stars and Stripes with details on the change in Kitty Hawk’s homeport status.