Stars and Stripes
Monday, October 1, 2001
Kitty Hawk pulls back into port, less than a two weeks after departure
By Joseph Giordono, Yokosuka bureau chief
Joseph Giordono / Stars and Stripes
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS Kitty Hawk returned to port early Sunday morning, contrary to news reports that the carrier and its escorts were headed to the Indian Ocean.
Family members, relieved the ship returned so soon after its Sept. 21 departure, gathered pier-side to watch as the ship was guided into port by several tugboats and smaller craft.
“I’m surprised that they are back so early, but I’m very happy about it,” said Monica Gummerus, who just completed training as one of the ship’s ombudsmen. The ombudsmen serve as a link between the ship and the crew’s family, especially when the ship is at sea.
“I am hoping that they won’t just turn around and go back out, but that is one of the rumors,” said Gummerus. “It was sad when they left, and I was much more worried this time than previous ones. And I’m not usually a person with a lot of worries.”
While the crowd on hand was much smaller than normal, it was still substantially larger than the one that saw the ship depart last month. Many of the family members waiting Sunday morning said they learned from Japanese news reports when the ship would return.
Navy officials, in keeping with policies instituted after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, declined to confirm any information about where the Kitty Hawk had been or what its mission was.
They also declined to comment on whether the ship would be deployed again before its next scheduled cruise later this month, or if that fall deployment still was planned. But the possibility of the carrier leaving again did not dampen the enthusiasm of the families greeting the ship Sunday. As the ship pulled into port around 7 a.m., the sun peeked from behind a layer of clouds as helicopters patrolled overhead.
“The noise of the helicopters was what told me it was almost here,” said Christie Malone, who waited at pierside with her children Kaitlin, 13, and Tyler, 9. Kaitlin and her friend Mackenzie Titus waved a large American flag as the Kitty Hawk, and their fathers, pulled up to its mooring.
“You never know about these things, and you have to prepare yourself that they won’t be coming back for a long time,” Christie Malone said. “I come from a military family. My grandfather served in the military, and my father was killed in Vietnam. You prepare for these things, and you understand that it’s [my husband’s] job.”
Late last week, pilots from Carrier Air Wing FIVE, which deploys with the Kitty Hawk, practiced takeoffs and landings on the ship somewhere in the Western Pacific, Navy officials said.
The air wing includes squadrons of fighters, strike fighters and anti-submarine helicopters, along with aircraft for sea control, airborne early warning and tactical electronic attack missions.
Also last week, the Japanese Defense Agency said it was ready to dispatch ships from its Maritime Self-Defense Force to join the Kitty Hawk battle group in the Indian Ocean and provide intelligence and other support.
The possibility of such a deployment is now unclear.