SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — About 6,200 sailors from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis are to converge on this small base in southern Japan this weekend.
The base population is about 5,000, but officials have rolled out the red carpet for large numbers of visitors before, including a 2002 visit by 6,200 crew members of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
When the Stennis arrives Saturday morning, the San Diego-based carrier will anchor in Sasebo Harbor. The base’s India Basin lacks berthing slots suitable for an aircraft carrier.
“We have arranged water-taxi transportation between the Stennis and Fleet Landing,” said base spokesman Charles T. Howard.
The Stennis is deployed in the western Pacific Ocean after taking part in a series of exercises in Alaska and Hawaii. The Stennis and USS Kitty Hawk carrier strike groups completed the Joint Air and Sea Exercise 2004 on Sunday. Both carriers also took part in the Summer Pulse ’04 exercise.
“Sailors and Marines will visit many countries during Summer Pulse ’04. The Navy views port visits as an integral part of our engagement process with allies and coalition partners,” Howard said Wednesday. “I’d also want to point out that a large percentage of the crew will be visiting Japan for the first time.
“I can think of no better place for them to come and experience the wonders of the culture and the warmth of its people,” he said.
Officials here want the Stennis crew to enjoy their stay in Sasebo, but they expect exemplary behavior, Howard said. The Lincoln’s 2002 visit produced no reports of incidents in the city involving sailors.
“No arrangements have been made with bar owners other than what we already established in the past through our mutual understanding,” Howard said. “The size of shore patrol will be increased due to the number of U.S. military personnel in port. Additionally, we have been in close coordination with the Japanese police.”
Also, crew members are briefed on local customs and appropriate conduct in an area every time they visit a foreign port, he said.
“As United States Navy personnel, they are always encouraged to be proper ambassadors and maintain good order and discipline,” Howard said. “In the rare event when U.S. personnel violate laws, foreign or domestic, they will be held accountable ... appropriate actions will be taken.”
Sasebo residents can expect the influx of Stennis sailors through Tuesday.
“Among other things,” Howard said, residents can expect to see “an increased number of Navy personnel, controlled traffic, a road blockage for vendor services, longer lines at banks and at the shopping facilities.”
Planning of events and activities for the visiting sailors continued through the week.
“Our goal is mainly to have maximum participation; that’s what we want most,” said Isaiah Mincks, Morale, Welfare and Recreation athletics director. “Our job is to give them something productive to do so as to keep them out of trouble. We want them to enjoy what we have planned rather than just hanging out somewhere in town.”
For instance, MWR Travel and Tours plans various treks to nearby sightseeing spots and points of interest, including trips to Nagasaki and Fukuoka.
A roadblock on the California Drive segment between the Galaxies Club and Bayside Food Court will transform into a hub of activity for vendor services from MWR and the Navy Exchange.
Also, most facilities are extending hours, with NEX Mini Mart to open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Bayside Food Court, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and retail stores, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
MWR is coordinating with Japan’s Maritime and Ground Self-Defense Forces to sponsor a soccer tournament and other sporting events at JGSDF’s Camp Ainoura.
Athletic events at Camp Ainoura, as well as other off-base activities planned for the Stennis crew, are important so personnel can enjoy the company of the Japanese, Howard said, “and deepen … close ties.”
An information center operating at Fleet Landing from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. will provide base and city maps, bus and train schedules, “living in Japan” tips, schedules for tours, sports, entertainment and other special activities.
Visiting sailors also are to interact with Sasebo’s Japanese residents Monday during two community projects.
About 50 crew members plan to visit the Seifuen Children’s Home for a cookout and outdoor recreation with the youngsters and staff. Another 20 sailors plan to visit the Hakujyu-sou Nursing Home, volunteering time for a general clean-up project.
At 1,092 feet, or the length of more than three football fields, the 11-year-old Nimitz-class carrier is the flagship of the Stennis Strike Group. The strike group includes five support ships: the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, the Arleigh Burke- class guided-missile destroyer USS Howard, the guided-missile frigate USS Ford, the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Salt Lake City and the replenishment ship USNS Rainier.
More port visit highlights
• A concert by the Orient Express Seventh Fleet Band at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday in Nimitz Park.
• Live music beginning at 9 p.m. at Galaxies Club featuring “Special K” playing acoustic rock Saturday night, “Cuba B” Sunday, “2nd String” Monday and the group “Node” on Tuesday night. Galaxies also offers a disc jockey and dancing every night from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m.
• From 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Sunday the Harbor View Club offers the Champagne Sunday Brunch.
• At 8 p.m. Tuesday night the Harbor View Club presents “Comedy Night” with Mark Yafee and Tommy Savitt.
Special sports events include the Golf Driving Challenge at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Strong Man Contest at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, followed at 5:30 p.m. by the Football Precision Pass Challenge. The Baseball Pitching Challenge is at 5:30 p.m. Monday; the Soccer Goal Shoot Challenge is at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by the Arm Wrestling Competition at 6:30 p.m.
— Staff reports