Yokosuka program to move sailors off ships on track
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Containers of mattresses and furniture are arriving every week to get Navy sailors out of their shipboard racks and into a real room at Yokosuka Naval Base.
Since spring, 243 high-performing sailors ranked E-4 and below have moved from ships to the barracks. Seven times that many — 1,645 sailors — should have a spot to sleep by January, officials said Thursday.
That’s about half of the moves needed to complete “Homeport Ashore,” an initiative aimed at improving quality of life for Yokosuka’s junior sailors. The hope, officials said, is that a good night’s sleep and privacy will lead to better performance and behavior.
Sailors housed ashore account for fewer disciplinary incidents than sailors who live aboard, base Command Master Chief William Holz said Thursday.
Afloat sailors live in small berthing spaces — sometimes 200 to a room — with little privacy. Things get even more difficult when the ships are in port and often undergoing refurbishment, said Command Naval Forces Japan Regional Master Chief Luis Cruz.
“Ships in port become industrial spaces and the sailors can lose ‘hotel services’ like running or hot water,” Cruz said.
Homeport Ashore has been progressing as planned since it was put on the front burner this winter, Cruz said.
The program was announced after several liberty incidents in Yokosuka, including the Jan. 3 murder of a 56-year-old Japanese woman by USS Kitty Hawk airman William Reese.
Homeport Ashore’s short-term plan is to double and triple room occupancy in six existing barracks by January using $3.1 million in new furniture. Jyuban Tower, a spot formerly slated for families, will house 193 sailors, who will start moving in Dec. 1, Cruz said.
New E-5s also don’t have the option of staying on base any longer.
“Those arriving after October were told up front that they would live on the economy,” Holz said. E-5s already there were grandfathered in, he added.
With the current limited number of beds, sailors are chosen according to performance from each command but can lose their beds to other sailors if their ship stays out longer than 30 days.
“Once we have more beds, we can stretch that out to 60 days,” Holz said.
The long-term plan is to build four new barracks at an estimated cost of $275 million, but funding still is pending, Cruz said.