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Web sites and Navy programs are working to make the sailors and families of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier feel welcome at Yokosuka when the ship arrives in the summer of 2008.
Web sites and Navy programs are working to make the sailors and families of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier feel welcome at Yokosuka when the ship arrives in the summer of 2008. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Web pages are being loaded with valuable information.

Sponsor programs are being formed.

And the Fleet and Family Support Center is preparing to do just that: provide support.

Though the USS George Washington isn’t scheduled to replace the USS Kitty Hawk in Yokosuka until next summer, efforts are underway to make the transition for the ship’s crew and their family members a smooth one.

Online, three commands involved in the move — the Norfolk, Va.-based George Washington, the Kitty Hawk, and Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka — have added pages to their Web sites to provide as much information as possible.

On the CFAY homepage, a USS George Washington “Welcome to Fleet Activities Yokosuka” button offers users one-stop shopping for information about the base, the region and life in Japan.

“The idea is to make the move to Japan easier for George Washington families by putting all the relevant information together in one location,” said Navy spokeswoman Michelle Steward.

The GW/KH Alongside Team Info page can be accessed from the Kitty Hawk’s home page.

It features information ranging from buying a cell phone and understanding the phone bill, to living on base and a step-by-step list of requirements to marry a Japanese national.

Yokosuka’s Fleet and Family Support Center is busy ramping up three existing programs to help meet the needs of the incoming sailors and their families.

“The Sponsorship Program, the Kids-2-Kids Program and the Ombudsman Program will each have an important role to play,” said Rebecca Lombardi, Yokosuka’s FFSC director. “We will be present at the GW’s change of homeport fair in January to put the word out about all of our programs.”

Jackie Kvinsland, an FFSC work and family life consultant who focuses on relocating and deployment programs, said sponsorship programs usually are centered on the servicemembers.

“But with a homeport change, there is no assimilating to a new command,” Kvinsland said. “The whole command moves.”

Kvinsland said both the Sponsorship Program and the Kids-2-Kids program are designed so when the ship arrives, “family members get all the help they need.”

According to K-2-K literature, the program works like a pen-pal program.

It pairs up children ages 9 to 16 who are coming to Yokosuka with those already there, so they can ask questions and know what to expect at school and on base.

CFAY’s Chapel of Hope is working with the FFSC to identify families already living in Yokosuka to sponsor George Washington families.

“I’m hoping to get upward of 150 to 200 families to volunteer,” said Cmdr. Derek Ross, a base command chaplain involved with the program. “The families volunteering will help the incoming families with whatever they need, whether it is finding the different base offices, locating kennels or enrolling children in schools.”

Ross, who said this is his family’s third overseas tour, said he knows from experience that it takes a while to get adjusted.

So he stressed that sponsors should be in it for the long haul, ready to guide the new families and be someone to turn to if the ship has to get under way.

How to get involved

Sign up at FFSCAttend sponsor-training workshopContact info

Points of contact for people interested in volunteering to participate in programs to help USS George Washington’s home port change:

Kids-2-Kids Program – Jackie Kvinsland DSN 315-243-7935Family Sponsor Program – Yokosuka’s Chapel of Hope DSN 315-243-7858Ombudsman Program – Lorraine Bacon DSN 315-243-8512From staff reports

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