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Kitty Hawk en route to Bremerton home port

The Kitty Hawk is expected to arrive in Bremerton on Tuesday. - Courtesy Photo
The Kitty Hawk is expected to arrive in Bremerton on Tuesday.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

The USS Kitty Hawk departed San Diego Thursday morning for its new homeport of Bremerton.

It is expected to arrive at Bremerton’s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on Sept. 2 for decommissioning in early 2009.

About 1,600 sailors will be making the move to the Pacific Northwest on the Navy’s oldest active ship.

In addition to the 1,600 crewmembers, about 65 other former crewmembers will be making the trip from San Diego to Bremerton, including a few dozen “plankowners,” as a ship’s original crewmembers are known.

Kitty Hawk was commissioned on April 29, 1961 and spent much of its life operating from Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., across the bay from the city of San Diego.

For the past decade, however, Kitty Hawk was the only aircraft carrier operating permanently from Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.

The ship turned over its “forward deployed” duties to USS George Washington (CVN 73) earlier this month.

About 600 sailors “cross decked” to the George Washington during the three weeks Kitty Hawk was at North Island. Another 300 will move back to the ship in Japan by early next year.

Hundreds of other Kitty Hawk sailors also have transferred from the ship within the past few months, cutting the 2,800-member crew down to its present number of about 1,600.

By the end of September, another 1,000 sailors will have left Kitty Hawk and by decommissioning, tentatively planned for the end of January 2009, the crew will be down to about 400.

About 50 families have moved, or are expected to move, to the area as part of the homeport change.

During its 47-year life, Kitty Hawk made seven combat deployments off Vietnam.

Its aircraft also have flown combat missions over Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kitty Hawk was the first Navy aircraft carrier to take part in Operation Enduring Freedom after Sept. 11, 2001, when it embarked military Special Forces troops and helicopters flying from the ship into Afghanistan.

The ship also took part in the opening strikes against Saddam Hussein’s regime during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For more information about the ship, visit its Web site at www.kittyhawk.navy.mil.

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