USS Gerald R. Ford Receives First Torah

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Reed

The first-in-class aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) received a dedicated Torah from the Jewish Welfare Board during a presentation ceremony in the ship’s forecastle Nov. 29, 2017.

The Torah, which means “to guide” or “instruction”, contains the first five books of both the Jewish and Christian Bible, known as the Five Books of Moses.

The hand-scribed Torah took a year to complete and was donated by Philip Kamaras and his family. 

“It is with great pride and humility that my family has donated a Torah to protect and serve the brave men and women who risk their lives daily and travel in harm’s way,” said Kamaras. “My dad was a blue-collar worker who was drafted at age 34 before landing in Europe to fight for the four freedoms. Now his legacy will live on as his Torah sails the world, overlooking brave Sailors and giving them strength.”

Around the Ship

“We are very honored to accept this unique and special donation,” said Cmdr. Steven Barstow, Ford’s command chaplain. “We will cherish this Torah as a command, protect it, and use it to deepen the faith journeys of our Sailors for generations to come.” 

Vice Adm. Herman Shelanski, Naval Inspector General, was a guest speaker at the dedication ceremony.

“It’s a place for Jews to come and to open the Ark, to find that light, that spark, even for thirty minutes every week,” Shelanski said. “There’s an intensity there, a need, and a beauty that this brings to the people that are here on this ship.”

Shelanski also said that Sailors need those moments of spirituality to remind them there is something bigger and greater for them. The Torah is a symbol of that and how they tie that day’s efforts into what they’re doing in their life.


“The Torah is the cornerstone religious text in the Jewish religion, and having it onboard is a huge statement of support for religious diversity and spirituality,” said Lt. Matthew Golub, assigned to Ford’s reactor department. “It provides a physical connection of my Jewish life to the proud tradition of Jews in the Navy and in America.”


Ford Successfully Completes Fixed-Wing Operations

180120-N-AO748-0050(ATLANTIC OCEAN) – While underway for Independent Steaming Exercise Five, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed 401 catapults and arrestments, bringing the total to date to 747. On the final day, Jan. 19, the Ford and Carrier Air Wing 8 team completed 135 traps.

Several commands came together to complete this phase of testing, to include VFA-31 “Tomcatters”, VFA-213 “Black Lions”, VFA-87 “Golden Warriors”, and HSC-9 “Tridents”.

The next opportunity for fixed-wing flight operations will be after Ford completes its planned maintenance availability.

Ford successfully tested its first-in-class technology, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on July 29. Since then Ford’s air department has worked countless hours to get to this point.

“It’s a great sense of accomplishment, not only for me but for my crew as well,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Reginald Leonard, V-2 division arresting gear leading petty officer, from Marshall, Texas. “We came through all the adversity, received good test data.”

The main challenge, said Leonard, came from testing a brand new system that no other Navy Sailor had even seen before, let alone worked on.

“It had to have been the toughest part,” said Leonard. “During all those times, I sat my Sailors down, explained to them what we were doing, what the mission was and told them to push through.”

Many Sailors found on the job, hands-on training the best way to learn while they were out to sea.

“We could read the books that tell us how to do the job from A to Z but when you’re actually working on it, it’s a whole new ball game,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Andrew Yanez, from Chicago. “It made me become a more efficient Sailor.”

Lt. Cmdr. Jaime Roman, Ford’s Handler, from Queens, said he is proud of the growth of the Sailors.

“I’ve been in the Navy for 27 years and yesterday was by far the most humbling experience of my naval career to see how far we’ve come as a team,” said Roman. “From the shipyards, to testing, to the 135 traps we did yesterday, the team that we’ve built in air department is unmatched. I would go on deployment with this team tomorrow if they would let us.”

Weather impacted the first days of the independent steaming exercise, with flight operations delayed on one day due to 13 foot seas and wind gusts of over 50 miles-per-hour. Flight operations were held that evening when conditions abated.

“It shows their resolve,” said Roman. “This is what we are out here for. The mission was to get as much testing done as we could safely do, and that shows the dedication of the crew. They took ownership in these systems.”

Roman said he couldn’t be happier with his Sailors.

“I want to tell my guys thank you,” said Roman. “To be here as a handler and see their dedication to the mission. Everybody gelled as a team and everything came together and everybody did their job. Thank you for being who you are and for your dedication and commitment.”


“Forged by the Sea”

UNREPMass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 5, 2017)– Since the inception of the Navy there have been numerous phrases that embody the Navy as a whole and the Sailors who serve. As the Navy continues to reach for the future, they have introduced a new tagline, “Forged by the Sea.”

“Forged by the Sea” represents the Navy as a team that has been tempered and toughened over 242 years of maritime dominance as well as a Sailor’s journey in uniform, shaping and strengthening them into a more capable version of themselves.

Beginning in 1973, the end of the draft shifted the Navy and the rest of the military to an all-volunteer force initiating the competition between the branches to find the best-qualified applicants.

The Navy’s slogans since 1973 have been “Be Someone Special”, “Navy. It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure”, “Live The Adventure”, “You are tomorrow; You are the Navy”, “You and the Navy-Full Speed Ahead”, “Let The Journey Begin”, “Navy, Accelerate Your Life” and “America’s Navy – A Global Force For Good,” which shifted the Navy’s slogan from its focus on recruiting and more toward the brand of the fleet.

As the Navy team evolves toward a more technologically advanced future, spearheaded by the commissioning of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), so too have the Sailors. Many who joined under different eras have been trained, tested and proven to encompass that which a 21st century Sailor represents.

“ I joined under ‘Let the Journey Begin,’” said Chief Quartermaster Tyrone Anthony. “ I loved it because, at the time, that is what I wanted out of life. I wanted a sense of adventure. I wanted to see the world. I think the new slogan is perfect because, as a chief, I’ve not only gotten to see how my life has been shaped by the Navy, but also how it sculpts junior Sailors as they grow into themselves as leaders.”

For some Sailors it requires a bit of perspective to see how much they have developed.

“You don’t really realize how much you have matured until you go home on leave and everything is different,” said Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Kennarye Blackshear. “To see the same people and friends doing the same things they were doing when you left makes you thankful and grateful for how far you’ve come in life. It makes you proud to be a Navy Sailor, to be able to show everybody what you can contribute to your country.”

For some, it wasn’t a desire to start a journey or an escape to something better that inspired them to serve, it was a sense of duty. Under an increased time of terror, some felt it was their duty to protect their home and the ones they love.

“ I joined under ‘The Shield’, if you remember, it was something along the lines of ‘to get to you they have to get through us,’” said Master-at-Arms Seaman Blair Crawford. “That really resonated with me and I wanted to do my part to prevent terror attacks in the states. I clearly took that to heart because I became a Master-at-Arms to serve and protect.”

The Navy has evolved over the last 242 years and it continues to offer boundless opportunities for personal and professional development.


Ford Fires CIWS for First Time

Star Wars Screening/CIWSU.S. Navy story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan Carter

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 15, 2017) – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) conducted its first-ever structural test fire on the Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) while underway Friday.

CIWS is a radar-guided, rapid-fire 20-millimeter rotating machine gun that functions as a defense against anti-ship missiles.

Each gun mount is equipped with a fire control assembly and a gun subsystem. The fire control assembly is made up of a radar system for surveillance and detection, and a radar system for aiming the gun while tracking the target. The subsystem utilizes a rotating machine gun that delivers approximately 75 rounds per second.

The structural test fire is an evolution conducted on the CIWS any time there is a new class of ship, according to Fire Controlman 2nd Class Joel Flanigan, of Gulf Breeze, Florida, assigned to Ford’s combat systems department.

“What we are looking for during the test is toxic gas levels inside the skin of the ship, as well as noise levels and any damage that occurs to the structure,” said Flanigan. “Once the event is completed, a full inspection is conducted where the structure is assessed for any damage that has occurred.”

In order for exercises like this to go on without a hitch, it is important for Sailors to pull together, said Fire Controlman 1st Class Shelby Edson, of Farmington, Missouri, assigned to Ford’s combat systems department.

“Teamwork is one of the most crucial elements of this evolution,” said Edson. “The ability to work together as one cohesive unit makes everything run smoothly, and without that team mentality, we would not have been able to successfully complete our objective.”

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Kyle Morgan, of Gastonia, North Carolina, assigned to Ford’s combat systems department, believes the evolution was an overwhelming success.

“After working on the mounts for the past year and waiting since August to see everything come to fruition, we finally saw the fruits of our labor,” said Morgan. “If there were ever any doubts, we silenced them today. We proved that we can execute our jobs with precision and accuracy.”

Star Wars Screening/CIWS


Ford Sailors Watch Newest Star Wars Film

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ViewingU.S. Navy story by USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN — The crew of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) received a surprise advance screening at sea of the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in the ship’s hangar bay Dec. 15, 2017.

Disney’s Senior Vice President of Distribution, Kenneth Caldwell, arrived via SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter with the disc in hand.

The screening was kept a surprise from the crew, which was assembled in the hangar bay that morning for an All Hands Call.

Capt. Richard McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, joked with the crew, asking them if they knew the reason they were assembled, before handing the mic to Caldwell to “confirm or deny” the rumors that were going around.

When Caldwell confirmed that they were about to see a screening of “The Last Jedi,” the crew erupted into shouts and applause.

Many Ford Sailors had grown up watching the films, and felt deep connections to the saga.

“When I found out they were going to play ‘Star Wars’ I started freaking out,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Third Class Tyanna Fitzmier, from Maize, Kansas. “This is amazing! I’ve been watching ‘Star Wars’ my whole life with my father. I even have tattoos of a death star and an imperial TIE fighter on my bicep. The fact that they are doing this for us is a big morale booster.”

“Going out to sea already makes me feel like I have goals to accomplish, and waking up to this news today makes me feel even better about all the work that I do,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate [Handling] Third Class Andrew Yanez, from Chicago. “This event alone is a great morale booster. The last time I felt the morale go this high was probably our first underway.”

A short “Star Wars” trivia contest followed Caldwell’s announcement, with crew members pitting their knowledge of the movies against each other.

Following the trivia contest, Caldwell thanked Ford Sailors for their service, stating that while many movies are filmed about heroes, “you’re the real heroes, believe me. I thank you for your dedication, for your service, and I just want to say, ‘God bless you all’. Get home safe…and let’s roll this film.”

The surprise cinema-at-sea was held in the ship’s hangar bay, with the video projected onto the ship’s hangar bay doors. Refreshments and light boxed lunches were provided by the Ford’s supply department.

Reactions to the screening generated an enthusiastic response from the crew.

“It was an amazing movie, but being able to see it at sea made it even more memorable,” said Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Kris Ruiz, from Kansas City, Missouri. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a special screening. It was definitely a surprise, and everyone had a good time watching the movie as a crew.”

“Once I heard [the announcement] with my own ears my heart dropped,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Airman Marc Cirocco. “I’ve seen all the films, I’m a huge fan. This just goes to show how much our command cares about us Sailors.”

Ford is currently underway conducting test and evaluation operations, to include an historic first underway replenishment-at-sea with USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12) Dec. 4.



Ford AIMD Builds First MH-60S Tire

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Litzenberger

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) First MH-60 Tire BuildATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 7, 2017) – An aircraft carrier’s mission symbolizes what the modern Navy is all about: the projection of power from the sea. In order to accomplish this, aircraft carriers are needed to launch and recover aircraft, and a certain department aboard these carriers is vital in the support of this mission. USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) Sailors are doing their part to continue the sequence of milestones for the ship.

As part of Ford’s mission to become fully qualified and operational, AIMD has successfully built an MH-60S tire.

“The tires on fixed-wing aircraft will only last around 10 to 15 launches and recoveries, so it’s necessary for us to rebuild the tires,” said Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Frank Brooks. “We break them down for easier stowage and then rebuild them when needed, so us being able to do this is needed for when we carry more aircraft and conduct longer flight operations.”

“This is the first time AIMD has acquired the resources and equipment to successfully build an aircraft tire,” said Ensign Matt Shaw, AIMD’s IM-2 divisional officer. “This is a significant milestone because now Ford’s AIMD can better support the air wings that we will take on board.”USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) First MH-60 Tire Build

The Sailors supporting these air wings put in a lot of time and effort in order to accomplish this milestone.

“We’ve spent a few weeks at different schools to get our qualifications to do this kind of work,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class William Sekel. “We learned a lot on building F/A-18 tires and different other aircraft. Getting this ship ready for this level of support has really taken a lot of effort from our Sailors.”

A lot of effort leading to a milestone for not only the ship, but for some of the Sailors as well.

“This is exciting for me,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Genesis Fernandez. “I’ve been learning a lot leading up to this point. It’s my first time ever doing this too, so it’s special.”

This milestone serves as a step forward for Ford as the ship conducts test and evaluation operations at sea during Independent Steaming Exercises.

“While air wings are embarked with us, we serve them,” said Shaw. “Any maintenance that is required for an aircraft that the squadrons can’t do due to resources or whatever it may be, we support. Our technicians are qualified to work on aircraft at an intermediate and more in-depth level than what the squadrons are capable of underway.”USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) First MH-60 Tire Build


USS Gerald R. Ford Performs First UNREP

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cat Campbell

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 4, 2017) – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) safely completed its first underway replenishment (UNREP) Monday to include the transfer of 16,000 gallons of JP-5 from USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12). Ford is underway conducting test and evaluation operations.

During an UNREP, supplies such as fuel, ammunition and food are sent across cables from another ship.

“An UNREP is when we refuel and replenish the ship,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Robert Shirley. “That’s how we get supplies when we’re out to sea for long periods of time.”

The number of times an UNREP can occur while out to sea varies on the mission of the ship, said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher Joseph.

With Ford being a brand new, first-in-class aircraft carrier, Sailors from deck department were anxiously anticipating the experience first-hand as Ford pulled alongside McLean.

“This is our first time doing this,” said Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Chauncey Cram. “I’ve been waiting a long time to do an UNREP, and I’m pretty excited.”

The importance of this evolution is well understood by deck department Sailors.

“This is one of the most important qualifications we need for the ship,” Joseph said.

Various factors are also considered in preparation for an UNREP to ensure the conditions support a successful evolution.

“There is a lot that goes into it that people don’t realize,” said Shirley. “Outside of rigging my stations and doing maintenance, which is the part I own, we (as a ship) also have to reach out and figure out the coordinates to be at and figure out the weather. It’s all about on-time execution and being on the same page.”

Safety is always a priority in any evolution, and recognizing the dangers and preparing for the worst is key.

“Several things could go wrong during an UNREP,” said Shirley. “This is probably the most dangerous evolution that Deck department does; it’s two ships side-by-side going through the water hooked up by tension wire. There’s always a danger. We can’t get rid of all of the danger, but we mitigate it the best we can.”

Capt. Richard C. McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, expressed his gratitude towards his Sailors for executing a safe and successful UNREP.

“Today was a significant day for the ship and our crew,” said McCormack. “This is an important milestone in the life of the ship and I could not be more proud of how the team came together to make today’s UNREP a success.”Ford's First Replenishment-at-sea