Sasebo, Japan -- The crew of the amphibious transport dock USS JUNEAU (LPD 10) is on the verge of making history as they make their final preparations in the Navy's first-ever crew swap exchange of command. The San Diego based crew will be exchanging ships with the Sasebo-based crew of USS DUBUQUE (LPD 8). Although the ships will be exchanging homeports, Sailors and their families will remain in place without permanently moving to new homeports.

Typically, when a ship moves to a new homeport, the Navy relocates the crew and their families along with the vessel. In most cases, the government pays for the associated costs of moving the crews. In addition to alleviating the burden of relocation for the Sailors and their families, the swap will at the same time save the Navy millions of dollars in moving costs.

"It's best for everyone," said Capt. Alan M. Haefner, JUNEAU's commanding officer, who has overseen the planning and preparation of JUNEAU's crew swap deployment from its onset and has led the JUNEAU crew through the past year's preparation for the swap. "As we approach the actual date for the exchange of command, it's clearly evident that the individuals who envisioned this swap over a year and a half ago, had the right idea," added Haefner.

The well-maintained JUNEAU has moved to Japan in order to provide our U.S. forward-deployed naval forces with the finest LPD available. JUNEAU, which deployed in early June, arrived in Sasebo after brief port visits in its namesake city, Juneau, Alaska as well as Seattle, Wash.

"I think it's a great idea that we change out the ship and not the crew," said Fireman William Dickey of Lyme, N.H. "I know a lot of guys who want to remain in San Diego and were really glad that they didn't have to relocate their families to Sasebo," added Dickey.

The crews of the JUNEAU and DUBUQUE will spend two more weeks familiarizing their replacements with their new vessels before the official exchange-of-command ceremony takes place. Both ships are Austin-class amphibious transport docks specifically configured to carry Marines and their equipment to conduct amphibious operations in support of U.S. national interests. Although the ships are similar, the two vessels were built in different shipyards and have undergone modifications and maintenance in different homeports. JUNEAU has spent the majority of the last 12 months installing and operating as the Navy's first IT-21 LPD.

Petty Officer 3rd class Brian M. Ranzoni of Albany, Ore. summed up best the general sentiment of the JUNEAU crew. "I admittedly have mixed feelings about the swap," said Ranzoni. "While I'm happy and very proud that we are able to provide our forward-deployed forces with the best LPD in the fleet, it's tough to turn over two and a half years of hard work."

Upon the completion of the ship-swap in Japan, the crew of the JUNEAU will become the crew of the DUBUQUE and steam the DUBUQUE back to San Diego for an extensive overhaul period. The current JUNEAU crewmembers are scheduled to return to San Diego in mid-September.