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USS George Washington to leave Norfolk Thursday, deploying to South America en route to Japan

CVN73 USS George Washington (Matt Hildreth/Daily Press/TNS)

The USS George Washington aircraft carrier will leave Hampton Roads Thursday as it deploys to South America en route to its new homeport of Yokosuka, Japan.

The Washington is deploying for the first time in nearly a decade as part of Southern Seas 2024. The carrier will operate alongside forces from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay over the next several months while it circumnavigates South America.

From South America, the Washington will head to San Diego before transiting to Japan, where it will be the forward-deployed carrier later this year. It will relieve the USS Ronald Reagan.

The Washington was previously homeported in Japan from 2008 to 2015, coming to Naval Station Norfolk in December 2015.

The bulk of the carrier’s time in the region was spent inoperable at Newport News Shipbuilding, where it was a fixture for more than six years. The carrier entered the shipyard in August 2017 for its mid-life refueling and complex overhaul. The process, which typically takes four years, was exacerbated by delays related to the pandemic.

During its time in the shipyard, there were nine suicides among the Washington crew, including three in one week in April 2022. The suicides among the Washington crew sparked a massive effort to change the way the Navy treats sailors experiencing mental health crises.

Since its redelivery to the Navy in May 2023, crew members have worked to qualify for deployment, including getting underway numerous times throughout the past year.

“Team Warfighter is ready to go,” said Capt. Tim Waits, commanding officer of the Washington. “Not only for the adventure that awaits in South America, but ready to serve as the nation’s forward-deployed naval forces carrier in Yokosuka.”


© 2024 The Virginian-Pilot

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