Quiet night in Yokosuka after arrival of ships from Kitty Hawk battle group
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YOKOSUKA, Japan — The 7th Fleet’s emphasis on responsibility and safety appears to have paid off: Neither base officials nor Japanese police reported any major incidents involving sailors from the USS Kitty Hawk, John S. McCain or Cowpens, all of which returned Tuesday from deployments to the Persian Gulf.
For most of the cruise home, sailors repeatedly were reminded that last summer’s conduct problems were not to be repeated — and they apparently took the words to heart.
“It would have been pretty bad if somebody did something stupid on the first night back,” said Seaman Arthur Johnson of the Kitty Hawk. “After all the talk and all the warnings, can you imagine how hard they’d come down on the first guy to screw up?”
Several incidents last summer led to curtailed liberties and contributed to the Kitty Hawk commander’s sudden reassignment.
Most sailors with families chose to spend Tuesday night catching up at home. Single sailors looked forward to other comforts: fast food and beer.
For most of Tuesday, a very common sight was a sailor in civilian clothes, fast-food bag in one hand, bag of compact discs and DVDs from the exchange in the other.
“I looked forward to eating when I got off the ship, and I went to Long John’s,” said Airman Lee Slate from the USS Kitty Hawk, referring to Long John Silver’s.
“I think they had just opened it right before we left. Then, I went out and had me a couple of beers at Buffaloes. It’s a bar out in the Honch, and a pretty popular place.”
The Honch is the bar district just outside Yokosuka’s base gates.
Airman Ryan Parker, also from the USS Kitty Hawk, had to work Tuesday night after the ships arrived in port, but on Wednesday made plans to explore Japanese culture.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing Japan,” he said. “I had just arrived and got on the boat about two days before we pulled out. So I haven’t seen any of the country, really.
“I plan to go to Yokohama and hang around, and do some shopping, check it out. That’s why I came over here.”
Six days after Airman John Millan arrived for duty in Japan, the Kitty Hawk left for the war. He spent Tuesday night taking care of practical matters.
“Yesterday, I got all my uniforms done and ready to wear, because they were all dirty. I got all my patches and stuff and sewed them on,” he said. “But today, I am going to the mall, hang around and just waste time.”
Airman Jerry Sikes also had duty Tuesday night after returning to Yokosuka, but on Wednesday, he started mapping out a night on the town.
“Tonight, I’m going to a club. There’s a friend of mine I met here in Japan who plays in a band, and he’s playing tonight at the Pumpkin,” Sikes said. “It’s over at the Honch, and they have live bands there, so I’m going to go see him.”
Japanese police officials said they were somewhat surprised by the smaller-than-expected turnout in the Honch.
They put out extra patrols overnight Tuesday but reported no incidents or arrests.
Similarly, Japanese police responsible for Yokohama and Tokyo, including the Roppongi night-life area, reported no incidents involving U.S. sailors.