NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- After a two-day delay, the USS Wasp (LHD 1) is saying "Sayonara" to Naval Station Norfolk.
The amphibious assault ship was originally planned to leave Hampton Roads on Monday, but because of the coastal storm that visited our region, the decision was made to delay the deployment.
The Wasp instead departed on Wednesday afternoon, and it won't be coming back any time soon; the Wasp is changing its homeport and will become the forward-deployed flagship of amphibious forces based out of Sasebo, Japan.
"It is a big deal," said Captain Andy Smith, commanding officer of the Wasp. "We're going over there to replace the Bonhomme Richard. She's been out there on station for a few years. it's our turn to go over there to support introduction of the F-35 Bravo strike fighter into that AOR (area of responsibility). which is the reason Wasp is going."
Command Master Chief CMC Greg Carlson said the crew is excited. "And we're looking forward to steaming around, it's kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity to take the ship on the transit route we're going, and it's exciting," he said.
The move was first announced last year, and the Wasp's departure could be a blow to Hampton Roads' economy. When the Navy moved the USS Iwo Jima to Mayport, Florida in 2014, the impact locally was huge.
According to the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the departure of that one amphibious assault ship meant the loss of 1,070 sailors, a total employment loss of 3,020, a decrease in personal income of more than $227 million, and a decrease in the gross regional product of more than $342 million.
A similar impact can be expected with the loss of the Wasp.
Still, the move may not be permanent.
"I do have confidence though that those 1,100 sailors and their families are coming back to Hampton Roads two years later in the Fall of 2019," said retired rear admiral Craig Quigley, when the move was first announced last year.