USS Kitty Hawk gets call to Rim
June 12, 2008
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Last month’s fire aboard the USS George Washington means the USS Kitty Hawk will take its place in this summer’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, the Navy announced Tuesday.
The George Washington is laid up in port at Naval Air Station North Island near San Diego while personnel conduct "repairs to spaces and equipment affected by fire," according to a Navy news release.
The May 22 fire occurred while the George Washington was at sea, causing minor injuries to 24 sailors and damaging cabling and equipment in 80 of the ship’s spaces.
The blaze also has delayed schedules for both aircraft carriers as the Kitty Hawk was on its way to decommissioning in Bremerton, Wash., and the George Washington was to take its forward-deployed assignment at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.
The Navy release said Tuesday that it was unknown when the George Washington would be back in action.
"The timeline for repairs to the ship has not been determined," the release said, adding that "once repairs to the ship are complete" the George Washington will take the Kitty Hawk’s place as planned.
That means the 47-year-old Kitty Hawk will remain "fully mission capable" longer than expected, as RIMPAC runs from June 29 through July 31 in the air and waters near Hawaii.
Ten countries, 35 ships, 150 aircraft and 20,000 military personnel are participating in this year’s exercise, the release said.
Meanwhile, the Kitty Hawk pulled into Guam for a port visit Tuesday after leaving Yokosuka two weeks ago on its final "sayonara" cruise.
"Despite the change in schedule, the ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation has arranged numerous tours, most of which revolve around outdoor activities and water sports," said a Kitty Hawk news release after the carrier pulled into the Navy base at Orote Point.
"Sailors say they are happy to visit Guam," the release said, adding that some of them have elected to take part in community service activities at a local animal shelter, area schools and other public facilities.
While Kitty Hawk’s decommissioning date stands at January 2009, the delay will affect sailors and families whose permanent-change-of-station orders and benefits were following the original plan.
According to the Kitty Hawk’s Web site, Pacific Fleet is working with the Naval Personnel Command to "mitigate potential effects." Sailors with upcoming transfers and permanent-change-of-station dates have been "put on hold" pending schedule announcements and repairs on the George Washington.
According to the Kitty Hawk’s Web site, the "majority of the Kitty Hawk families have already left Japan or have made arrangements to leave over the summer."
Kitty Hawk officially changes its homeport to Bremerton on July 15 — where the ship was to be decommissioned — while the carrier participates in RIMPAC.