PACIFIC OCEAN (April 20, 2011) Quartermaster Seaman Shanelle Mitchell searches for navigation points while working as part of navigation detail aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) as the ship makes its way back into its forward operating port of Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stephanie Smith)

YOKOSUKA, Japan - The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) returned to the ship’s forward operating port of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka after almost exactly one month at sea, April 20. While underway, George Washington made history by proving its ability to continue the carrier’s routine maintenance while at sea.

“Even after being at sea all this time, we are still ahead of our maintenance schedule and it’s because of you. The Sailors aboard this ship, our hard working crew, you are our real secret weapon,” said George Washington’s Commanding Officer Capt. David Lausman during an all hands call on the ship’s flight deck the afternoon prior to the ship’s return to Yokosuka.

Under normal circumstances, it would take nearly three weeks to get George Washington “sea-ready” while in the middle of a routine maintenance period. Following the Japan earthquake, the crew got the ship underway in an unprecedented time frame of just six days.

“That is your legacy this is your ship, you did this, you deserve all the credit,” added Lausman.

Continuing maintenance at sea was an unscheduled hurdle for the ship but one George Washington was able to overcome with the help of 466 shipyard workers from Puget Sound and Norfolk Naval Shipyard and 116 Japanese contractors from Ship’s Repair Facility (SRF) Yokosuka.

“Our continued work at sea allowed us to complete more than 1,000 jobs on the ship plus 500 to 600 jobs in the plant,” said George Washington’s Maintenance Manager Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Pomeroy. “We still have work to do, but couldn’t have gotten this far without their full support.”

During the short underway, the ship pulled into port twice, both times in Sasebo, Japan. The port visits were logistical stops to pick up supplies and transfer personnel. On the second visit, however, George Washington’s crew had a chance to get off the ship an enjoy two days of liberty. Among those going ashore were more than 50 Sailors who volunteered their time at the Sakura Challenged Home, a facility for the physically and mentally handicapped.

“This particular community service event was an excellent opportunity to give our Sailors a chance to meet with some of the local people and help the community,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jose Pimentel, one of George Washington’s command chaplains. “This project also gave them a chance to interact with people of a capacity that they may not be use to interacting with or may not be comfortable interacting with.”

Now in port, George Washington will continue her routine maintenance. During this time, the carrier will maintain a heightened state of readiness. For the crew, their time at sea and experiences since the earthquake has given them a newfound perspective on life.

“I’m glad I will get to see my friends,” said Elaine Taranto from Mt. Upton, NY “After the earthquake, it made me appreciate my family and life because it can change so quickly, and reminded me not to take anything for granted.”

George Washington is the Navy’s only forward deployed nuclear powered aircraft carrier. From her forward operating port of Yokosuka, Japan, George Washington’s mission is to help ensure security, stability and prosperity in the Western Pacific.