Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) steams in the East China Sea in this file photo from June 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly)

YOKOSUKA, Japan - The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) departed its forward operating location of Fleet Activities Yokosuka Aug. 20 to continue its 2012 patrol.

Continuing in its fourth patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations since relieving the now decommissioned aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), in 2008, George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, will provide a combat-ready force that will protect and defend the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

"George Washington and its crew are ready to get back underway to continue our patrol in the Western Pacific supporting stability and peace in the region," said Capt. G.J. Fenton, George Washington's commanding officer. "It is very important that we always remain ready to carry out the full range of missions, from humanitarian assistance to possible combat operations. Operational readiness is what [George Washington] is all about."

The patrol will be Fenton's first deployment as commanding officer aboard George Washington, having turned over command of the aircraft carrier from Capt. David A. Lausman Aug. 11.

"It is a pleasure to assume the duties of commanding officer of this great ship and crew," said Fenton. "I look forward to working with our partners and allies in the region, including the professionals of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force."

During this patrol, George Washington will participate in joint, military-training exercises with international partners, which will strengthen its alliances and partnerships to promote a collective security.

George Washington was commissioned on July 4, 1992 and is the fifth of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers exercise the Navy core capabilities of power projection, forward presence, humanitarian assistance, deterrence, sea control and maritime security.