YOKOSUKA, Japan (Aug. 25, 2011) The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) moors at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka after her summer patrol. George Washington is the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier and is the flagship of Commander Task Force 70. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles Oki)

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) - After 74 days at sea and logging more than 25,000 nautical miles across the western Pacific, the Navy's only full-time, forward-deployed, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) returned to its forward-operating port of Yokosuka, Japan, Aug. 25.

While underway, George Washington conducted training, participated in exercises and represented the U.S. by hosting distinguished visitors from nearly a half-dozen different nations, including Japan, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

"Our mission is to help ensure security and stability across the western Pacific, and we stand the watch day and night while we are at sea," said George Washington Commanding Officer Capt. David Lausman. "Our crew has worked very hard during this patrol so we're excited to come home for a reunion with our families and friends."

While George Washington has only been underway for three months, the ship's return to Yokosuka reunites families who have been apart for nearly seven months. Many families were evacuated before the ship pulled out and only just recently returned to Japan.

"Our crew has been booking trips around Japan like crazy," said Rebekah McKoy, George Washington's Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. "I think they're really excited to finally get to spend some time together and celebrate their reunion."

Following the completion of carrier qualifications, George Washington began its most recent patrol June 12, heading south through the Sunda Strait en route to Australia for the biannual exercise Talisman Sabre 2011.

"The narrowest point in the strait is just two miles wide and the water is only 18 meters deep," said Cmdr. Wes McCall, George Washington's navigator. "If the ship keel was sitting on the sea floor right now, the mast would be sticking out of the waters, it's that shallow."

Off the coast of Australia, aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 launched off the bow as the U.S. and Australia trained together to improve both nation's combat readiness and interoperability. In addition to George Washington, 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian personnel participated in Talisman Sabre.

"Talisman Sabre [allowed] the U.S. and Australian navies to work together to train and validate in a joint warfighting environment," said Capt. John Schultz, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15. "[We were able to] conduct interoperability by [sharing tactics and procedures], making sure they were all fleshed out and ready to go."

At the end of the exercise, George Washington hosted U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich for a tour of the ship and an opportunity to speak with George Washington Sailors about the importance of the U.S. alliance with Australia.

"If you look at our relationship, it began with a visit from the Great White Fleet [in 1908] and has been built upon since then just from our commitment to the security and prosperity of the Pacific," said Bleich.

After 57 days at sea, the carrier made its first port visit; a five day stop in Laem Chabang, Thailand. While there, the ship hosted 500 local dignitaries during a reception in the hangar bay, participated in a dozen community service projects and coordinated public tours for nearly 1,000 people. Among those taking a tour of the ship was George Washington's first royal visitor, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, a member of Thailand's royal family.

"I am always thrilled to have people tour our ship; It's a great opportunity for them to meet our crew and learn about what we do," said Lausman. "People may be impressed with the ship, but the ship is just 100,000 tons of steel. Our Sailors are our real secret weapon."

For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73.