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USS Bonhomme Richard Departs San Diego For Japan

The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard departed San Diego today for its new home base of Sasebo, Japan.

More than 1,000 sailors and 800 Marines will be gone for a deployment of around four months, leaving behind spouses and lovers on Valentine's Day.

"He was under way during our anniversary, so now he gets to leave on Valentine's Day,'' Navy wife Sarah Williams told 10News.

En route, the crew is scheduled to switch places with the USS Essex, a sister ship in which the sailors will return to Naval Station San Diego. The switch-out is called a "hull swap.''

"The Navy saves money by moving the hulls around and keeping the families here in San Diego,'' Capt. Charles Litchfield, the commanding officer of the Bonhomme Richard, told the station.

The Essex has been assigned to Japan since 2000.

The Bonhomme Richard has been based in San Diego since its commissioning in 1998, according to Lt. Beth Teach of Expeditionary Strike Group Three.

Litchfield said his vessel has just completed one year of maintenance and equipment upgrades.

The Essex will undergo similar work after it arrives in San Diego, he said.

"(The hull swap) allows us to leverage the industrial capacity here in San Diego to do the overhauls,'' Litchfield said.

He told NBC San Diego that it will be like taking one Cadillac out and bringing another one back.

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