USS Reagan, Howard start Sasebo port call
July 30, 2008
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Visiting sailors hit the streets of Sasebo on Monday as the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and destroyer USS Howard began their port call.
It is the first visit by an aircraft carrier since February, when the USS Nimitz anchored in the harbor.
Base personnel spent the weekend readying for the thousands of additional servicemembers expected to take liberty leave this week while the two ships are in port.
In addition to thousands of USS Essex strike group sailors home for the summer, 3,000 to 5,000 Reagan and Howard sailors will come ashore daily to shop, see the area and perform community services, Reagan skipper Capt. Kenneth J. Norton said.
The nuclear-powered carrier was greeted with some protests — a typical occurrence for a nuclear carrier — in Nagasaki Prefecture, where the base is located, according to media reports.
Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup, the carrier strike group commander, said his sailors will be on their best behavior during the visit, which is expected to last several days.
"We have worked very hard since our last port call to make sure our sailors understand how important this visit is," Wisecup said.
About 150 Reagan sailors were signed up for Sasebo community service projects on Monday, he said.
Sasebo Morale, Welfare and Recreation officials scheduled sporting events and off-base sightseeing trips through Thursday, including more than 200 sailors per day to Nagasaki city, said Dennis Lebling, fleet recreation coordinator for MWR.
"The baseball games are huge," Lebling said. "We just bought every [ticket] we could get."
The influx of sailors will pump about $1 million a day into the local economy, said Charles Howard, base spokesman.