Carrier USS Ronald Reagan Leaves San Diego, Bound For Japan

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US Navy

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan at sea.

After 11 years in San Diego, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan Monday began a voyage to its new home port in Japan.

The Reagan is one of three aircraft carriers taking part in a swap of home ports. The USS George Washington left Japan, and following a stop here, is destined for Virginia, where it will undergo a nuclear power refueling.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt, which had been located in Virginia, is currently deployed in the Middle East and will end its journey at its new San Diego home base.

"We are sending our most modern West Coast-based aircraft carrier to support the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and our allies," said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, the commander of Naval Air Forces.

The Reagan was one of the first Navy ships to respond and provide assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the east coast of Japan in 2011. The ship was on deployment at the time.

"The strong ties that were established between ship and host nation over four years ago will continue," Shoemaker said.

Since around two-thirds of the crew of each vessel taking part in the swap are expected to remain at their home port, the Navy expects to save around $41 million in personnel transfer costs.

Most of the sailors taking the Reagan across the Pacific Ocean are former George Washington crew members. The majority of those taking the George Washington to Virginia served aboard the Reagan — and they're scheduled to fly back when they're finished and man the "Big Stick" after it arrives in San Diego.

Around one-third of each crew will remain with their ship for the next three years, primarily command and nuclear power staff, so some families were at the pier to say goodbye to family members.

"I'm sad for me, but I'm actually happy for him," Sabrina Whitelow told NBC7/39 about her sailor husband. "He loves traveling, so Japan was some place he really wanted to go to, so I'm happy."

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