As USS Stennis leaves, another Nimitz-class aircraft carrier heads to Bremerton

BREMERTON, Wash. -- After more than 10 years in the Pacific Northwest, one of the country's biggest aircraft carriers has left the region.

But a new ship will soon say, "hello."

The USS John C. Stennis, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, left Naval Base Kitsap on Oct. 15.  The Stennis is off the coast of California before heading to the Western Pacific or the Middle East, said Sam LaGrone, editor of the U.S. Naval Institute News. 

The deployment is expected to last between five and seven months, LaGrone said, depending on the needs of the commanders.  After deployment, the Stennis will switch homeports to Norfolk, Va. to undergo a complex overhaul.

It likely won't be back to Bremerton for quite a while.

"Bremerton won't see the Stennis for probably about five years at least," LaGrone said. "Because that refueling period is pretty long."

The spot alongside the USS Nimitz won't sit vacant, though. The USS Carl Vinson will change its homeport to Bremerton, in advance of some future work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

The Carl Vinson is also a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and will have about the same number sailors as the Stennis, LaGrone said.  Naval Base Kitsap Public Affairs Officer Jake Chappelle said day-to-day work at the base will remain largely unchanged.

Those upset they did not get to say goodbye to the Stennis, which was docked in Bremerton since 2005, are not alone.

The Navy was tight-lipped about the Stennis' latest deployment, LaGrone said. When previously towns got a day or two departure notice to have a bit of a send-off, this deployment happened without much warning.

This likely stems from U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John Aquilino, who has adopted a policy of not announcing ship movements. LaGrone believes it's part of a new national defense strategy "that calls for U.S. forces to be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable."

"Now, in this declaration from the Pentagon that we're in, this new great power competition with China and Russia, they're trying to change it up as far as being predictable for deployment," LaGrone said.

It not known when the Carl Vinson will arrive in Bremerton, but it will likely occur sometime in 2019.