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“The sponsorship program is alive and well in Yokosuka,” said Fleet and Family Support Center Family Life & Education Specialist Scott Keehn. Keehn teaches people how to sponsor a person, or, in the case of the USS George Washington, entire families to ease the transition of adjusting to life in Japan.

“The sponsorship program is alive and well in Yokosuka,” said Fleet and Family Support Center Family Life & Education Specialist Scott Keehn. Keehn teaches people how to sponsor a person, or, in the case of the USS George Washington, entire families to ease the transition of adjusting to life in Japan. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — An interesting problem faces the USS George Washington as it prepares to move to Yokosuka Naval Base.

Traditionally, when a servicemember transfers to a new command, someone from the gaining command will serve as a command sponsor to ease the transition.

But what happens when the whole command moves?

The quandary becomes, if there is now new command, who is going to sponsor the crew and its families?

To help resolve the problem, the base has paired its Chapel of Hope, which routinely spearheads volunteer efforts with its Fleet and Family Support Center, to train people how to be command sponsors for the ship’s families.

Fliers posted throughout the base and satellite housing communities are requesting area families to volunteer.

A group of about 15 volunteer sponsors took part in a class Thursday that dealt with helping the George Washington families adjust to life in Japan.

Ensign Erin McConnel, a volunteer who recently moved her family to Japan, said she volunteered because the complexities of moving a family to a new command in a new country are still fresh in her memory.

According to McConnel, while serving in Japan is a great experience, the actual move to Japan is more than meets the eye.

Between the mountain of paperwork — in triplicate — and magnitude of the culture shock, the initial process can be “difficult.”

“I am excited about helping make the process easier for someone else,” McConnel said.

To date, only one USS George Washington sponsorship class has been conducted, and according to Scott Keehn, a family life and education specialist with the FFSC, more volunteers are needed.

“We are talking about people coming together as a community,” said Keehn, who suggested that sponsoring a GW family will “probably be easier” since there isn’t actually any new command to check in to.

Families wishing to participate in the USS George Washington family sponsorship program should contact Yokosuka’s Chapel of Hope at 243-7321.

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