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Sayonara, Japan! Wasp bound for Norfolk

The amphibious assault ship Wasp left the Japan-based 7th Fleet’s area of operations on Wednesday, part of a scheduled homeport shift that will take it to Norfolk and some much needed maintenance, officials told Navy Times.

Since Wasp replaced sister warship Bonhomme Richard in early 2018, it supported the operations of III Marine Expeditionary Force, including becoming the first Navy vessel to deploy the Corps’ stealthy F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter.

“It has been a profound honor for Wasp and her crew to serve 7th Fleet and its ancillary commands during this time,” said Wasp’s commanding officer, Capt. Gregory Baker, in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.

Wasp Command Master Chief Kevin Guy added that more than half of the crew were married, and they deployed to Japan without their families.

And they stayed busy, participating in the springtime Balikatan exercises with the Philippines and the summer Talisman Sabre drills with the Australians, Japanese, Canadians, New Zealanders and British forces.

“The performance by the Wasp crew has quite simply been superb,” said Expeditionary Strike Group 7 commander Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, in a release.

“Over the last two years, no ship in the Navy has been asked to do more than USS Wasp and the ship delivered in every way. The officers and crew rose to every challenge and we could not have asked for a better flagship to operate in the most important and dynamic area in the world.”

Although his trip was upstaged by the uproar over a misguided White House request to hide the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain from President Donald J. Trump — something he never asked to be done — the commander in chief also honored the Wasp’s crew with a Memorial Day visit.

The warship’s departure from the 7th Fleet wasn’t a surprise.

In April, the Navy officially announced that it would be leave Japan, with the amphibious assault ship America and landing platform dock New Orleans relocating to Sasebo, Japan, in November and September, respectively.

Navy Personnel Command announced in early 2018 that Wasp was expected to return to Norfolk around Sept. 20.

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