The USS Ronald Reagan returns to San Diego in 2008. Navy photo

The complicated but money-saving process of swapping out the home ports of three aircraft carriers is scheduled to begin next week, the Navy announced Friday.

The USS George Washington, which had been stationed in Japan, is scheduled to arrive in San Diego Bay Monday.

Its crew members will switch places over the following 10 days with the sailors of the USS Ronald Reagan, currently based in San Diego, and later this month will sail the Reagan to its new home port in Japan.

The Reagan just completed a maintenance period and received several upgrades, and the Navy likes to keep its most modern vessels stationed in the Asian theater.

“We are sending one of our most advanced carriers to join our forward deployed forces in Japan to support the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander, Naval Air Forces. “Sending USS Ronald Reagan demonstrates our continued commitment to the region and ensures the Navy is where it matters, when it matters.”

The former Reagan crew members will set to sea themselves aboard the Washington, taking it to Virginia, where its nuclear plant will be refueled.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt, currently deployed in the Middle East, will replace the Reagan in San Diego. The “Big Stick” had been based in Norfolk.

After the Roosevelt arrives in San Diego late this fall, most of its sailors will fly back to Virginia. The Reagan sailors will return home to San Diego in September, and await their takeover of the Big Stick.

The Navy said the swap will allow around two-thirds of each vessel’s crew to remain at their home base, providing stability for them and their families, and saving the service around $41 million in transfer expenses.

Personnel deemed critical to ship operations, such as the captain, executive officer and Reactor Department personnel, will stay with their vessels and make the transfer, the Navy said.

—City News Service

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