Yokosuka junior sailor’s home away from home

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class George Cardenas
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class George Cardenas

Yokosuka junior sailor’s home away from home

by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Cardenas

Whenever operational readiness is discussed, terms like material condition, maintenance and equipment status are often the first questions since that directly affects the ship’s overall mission readiness. While in-port, however, another term comes in play: a Sailor’s readiness. The leadership aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), understand the importance of this concept and are continually working towards improving Sailor’s quality of life.

While the ship is at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY), Sailors are provided their own personal spaces at Homeport Ashore, or HPA barracks. HPA is a luxury that Ronald Reagan’s senior leaders are heavily invested in.

“We worked hard to get these rooms,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Jose Martinez, the command Homeport Ashore (HPA) Coordinator. “We leave a huge footprint and tried our best to accommodate the needs of the Sailors.”

The combined efforts of the ship’s shore detachment, commonly known as “The Reagan Ranch,” and CFAY Housing staff resulted in improving and sustaining the standard of living for the entire junior-enlisted population of Ronald Reagan. The ship’s crew was responsible for processing, assigning and tracking how many rooms are needed to house the junior-enlisted; CFAY was responsible for reserving and preparing rooms for Reagan Sailors as well as purchasing new equipment for the tenants to use.

“If the command brings me a Sailor, I put them in a room,” said Kyle Abernatha, the unaccompanied housing manager for CFAY. “The impact of Sailors having their personal rooms is visible in their mental health and well-being.”

Since February 2022, CFAY has increased the number of Ronald Reagan tenants by 43%. Out of the 4,000 beds that CFAY is able to provide for all junior-enlisted Sailors on the installation, 1,650 of them, spread across four buildings, are reserved for Ronald Reagan Sailors.

“I was previously active-duty, the quality of life for these Sailors is not only my job but it’s a personal passion,” said Abernatha. “Deployment can be tiring, and they’re ready for a place to relax once they’re back.”

Working in tandem, Abernatha, and Martinez coordinated, managed, and prepared for the housing of over 1,650 Sailors. Each individual room has undergone a number of minor renovations that led to visible improvements and tailored spaces for the tenants. The renovations include additional space by providing each room with essential furniture, new refrigerators located in each room’s common area and new microwaves.

“This recent deployment was super busy,” said Aviation Maintenance Adminstrationman Airman Marcus Muniz, a Sailor who lives in an HPA room. “It gave me a sigh of relief being able to come to my room and seeing the new equipment.”

In-port preparations for the upcoming deployment means that Sailors are kept busy with daily tasks to ensure the ship is ready for the next patrol. Having a place to call home after a long work day creates a positive, rippling effect in every Sailor’s perspective and work ethic.

“It’s comforting to see the new changes with how the barracks are being managed,” said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Recruit Brandon Whitter. “Being able to go to my room after we got back from deployment was amazing.”

In addition to remodeling the HPA rooms and common spaces, the HPA crew and staff implemented a change that allows Sailors to occupy their HPA rooms for their entire time onboard the ship. Until recently, all Sailors who were deploying were required to check out of their rooms and store their belongings in storage spaces. Now, Reagan Sailors are allowed to keep their belongings in their respective rooms.

“We recognized it was something that helped give Sailors ownership over their room which ultimately leads to Sailors taking better care of their room,” said Abernatha.

Continuing with the recent effort to refine the standard of living for the junior enlisted, Martinez, Abernatha and other leaders from CFAY and Ronald Reagan are prioritizing the feedback and voices of Sailors who live in the rooms. From readily-available QR codes that submit maintenance tickets to quarterly surveys, the input from Sailors’ is highly valued. Recently, Command Master Chief Jeremy Douglas, command master chief of Ronald Reagan, hosted an all-hands call with Sailors who lived in the barracks to discuss general standards and receive feedback on the rooms themselves.

“Pumping money into a program is not the only thing to fix quality of life,” said Abernatha. “Things like permanent room assignments which may not cost anything, fixes it. We single-handedly changed the game for every single one of our occupants.”

Delivering a raised standard of living for junior Sailors has been one of the command’s top priorities. Acknowledging the challenges that service members undergo while serving in 7th Fleet, one of Ronald Reagan leadership’s primary focus is to provide Sailors better quality of life in every aspect during their time overseas.

“Mental health for Sailors is a top priority for the command,” said Martinez. “We don’t want to risk their mental state, so we try to provide everyone a room to call home.”

Photo Caption:
From left, Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Jordan Landfair, from Adrian, Michigan; Kyle Abernatha, Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) housing manager; and Chief Hospital Corpsman Jose Martinez, from Silver Spring, Maryland, pose for a picture in front of unaccompanied housing while in-port CFAY, Feb. 23. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the United States, and supports Alliances, partnerships and collective maritime interests in the Indo-Pacific region.

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