SECNAV Visits Ford on Navy’s Birthday

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kristopher Ruiz

Newport News, Va. – Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus visited Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Oct. 13 to meet with Sailors and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding shipbuilders on board the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier.

Mabus’ visit on board Ford coincided with the 241st birthday of the U.S. Navy.  

“There’s no navy that has ever existed that comes close to this Navy,” said Mabus. “We’re going to make sure that the Navy has as bright a future as its storied past.” 

Mabus highlighted the Navy’s efforts in supporting renewable energy, the importance of relationships with partner countries, the vital trust between the U.S. Navy and the American public, and the significance of aircraft carriers.

“This ship will protect America for half a century,” Mabus told Ford Sailors. 

Mabus took time to answer questions and pose for photos with crew members.

“It was an honor to welcome SECNAV and have him speak with Ford Sailors on the Navy’s birthday,” said Capt. Rick McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer.

McCormack noted that over 100 Ford Sailors are deployed on ships around the world, to include two Sailors aboard USS Mason (DDG 87) and three Sailors aboard USS Nitze (DDG 94).

The Nitze conducted targeted strikes against three radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. The targeted radar sites were involved in recent missile launches threatening Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Bab al-Mandeb and the Red Sea.

“The thing I am most proud of are the Sailors and Marines serving today,” Mabus said, adding “Nobody can touch our Navy, and it’s our job to make sure it stays that way.”

 

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Oct. 13, 2016) — Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus takes selfies with Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Sailors at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding. Mabus visited Oct. 13 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders Navy’s newest first-in-class aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

 

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Oct. 13, 2016) — Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus addresses Sailors and shipbuilders aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding. Mabus visited Oct. 13 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders Navy’s newest first-in-class aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

PCU Gerald R. Ford Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Story and photos by Petty Officer Third Class Sean Elliott

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (October 12, 2016)—Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) held a Hispanic Heritage Month festival in Newport News, Oct. 11.

Around The Ship

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Oct. 12, 2016) — Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), pose for a group photo at the Hispanic Heritage Month festival. Ford is under construction at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipyard. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Elliott/Released)

Sailors from Ford’s Multicultural Heritage Committee presented an interactive experience to educate fellow Sailors on different cultures from many Hispanic countries.

“Our primary objective is to educate and to let people express themselves in ways not normally seen,” said Chief Petty Officer Michael Payne. “This [festival] is a good way for people to come out of their comfort zones and learn something.”

The festival was held at nearby Huntington Hall and included booths designed by Ford Sailors showcasing different aspects of Hispanic culture. Ford Sailors attending the festival had the opportunity to observe and learn about different Hispanic cultures by participating in sports, games, and tasting traditional Hispanic food.

Around The Ship

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Oct. 12, 2016) — Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), pose for a group photo at the Hispanic Heritage Month festival. Ford is under construction at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipyard. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Elliott/Released)

“Each Sailor running their booth brought a touch of their own religion, holidays, or traditions to explain to us why it is important to them,” said Petty Officer First Class Derico Callaway.

Ford’s Multicultural Heritage Committee regularly plans events spotlighting different cultures and invites all Ford Sailors to take part in the celebration and learn new information.

“Today, I learned about Day of the Dead, a holiday when the deceased are remembered,” said Petty Officer Third Class Keishunda Ellislee. “The Hispanic Heritage Month festival was awesome.”

Around the Ship

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Oct. 12, 2016) — Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), pose for a group photo at the Hispanic Heritage Month festival. Ford is under construction at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipyard. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Elliott/Released)

Around the Ship

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Oct. 12, 2016) — Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), pose for a group photo at the Hispanic Heritage Month festival. Ford is under construction at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipyard. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean Elliott/Released)

Ford Sailors Win Photography Competition

By Seaman Connor D. Loessin

Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) participated in the local Norfolk Photo Shoot Off, at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, Sept. 29, through Oct. 2.  

The program, open to military and civil service photographers, offered multiple competition categories centered on this year’s theme: symmetry.

Media department Sailors, Petty Officer 3rd Class Kiana A. Raines and Petty Officer 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell, took first and second place respectively in the “Hackman Challenge,” a category for military and civil service photographers.

In addition to the “Hackman Challenge,” Raines took first place in the “Chip Shot” category, the best overall single image from the competition.

“The Norfolk Shoot Off was a great event that I will remember for a very long time,” said Raines. “I met the best military photographers and learned an incredible amount from them.”

The event provided attendees a training experience boasting Emmy Award winning presenters, nationally recognized speakers, visual designers, book authors and lifetime educators who support the program.

“As a division officer for Ford’s media department, I am proud that my Sailors participated in this event in order to refine their professional skills while taking both first and second place,” said Assistant Public Affairs Officer Ensign Corey T. Jones. “Photography is a powerful artistic medium capable of conveying meaningful, complex stories to a global audience, and the amount of skill required to capture a winning image should not be underestimated.”

Legacy military photographers educated active-duty participants on the history of photography in the military and provided mentoring that the armed service members will carry with them throughout their career.

“For me, it was definitely a way to challenge myself and it forced me to go out into the world and look at things differently,” said Campbell. “I learned a lot and that in itself is a personal win.”merged

Fresh Anchors: Ford Pins New Chiefs

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Connor D. Loessin

HAMPTON, Va. (Sept. 16, 2016) -- Chief Navy Counselor Roynika Love cries as she is pinned to the rank of chief petty officer. Fifty-seven Ford Sailors were advanced to chief petty officer during the ceremony, attended by family, friends and crew members. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Connor Loessin/Released)

HAMPTON, Va. (Sept. 16, 2016) — Chief Navy Counselor Roynika Love is pinned to the rank of chief petty officer. Fifty-seven Ford Sailors were advanced to chief petty officer during the ceremony, attended by family, friends and crew members. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Connor Loessin/Released)

 

HAMPTON, VA.—Fifty-seven Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) chief petty officers were pinned to their new rank, Sept. 16.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Steven S. Giordano, guest speaker for the ceremony, reaffirmed the importance of this milestone.

“I would like to congratulate all of our newest chief petty officers across the Navy and all their family members,” said MCPON, who offered the following advice to newly promoted chief petty officers.  “Be leaders. Continue to develop our Sailors, take care of our Sailors, and take care of their families. Educate them the right way so that they can make smart choices, so that they can be successful in life… If we can build that, our Navy is going to be extremely effective and continue to be the great Navy it is today.”

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano delivers remarks at the Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) 2016 chief pinning ceremony. Fifty-seven Ford Sailors were advanced to chief petty officer during the ceremony, attended by family, friends and crew members. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Connor Loessin/Released)

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano delivers remarks at the Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) 2016 chief pinning ceremony. Fifty-seven Ford Sailors were advanced to chief petty officer during the ceremony, attended by family, friends and crew members. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Connor Loessin/Released)

During the pinning ceremony, the new chiefs had their new rank insignia pinned to their collars by their friends and family. The insignia is a fouled anchor, symbolizing the trials and tribulations that every chief endures on a daily basis. Attached to the anchor is a length of chain and the letters U.S.N.  The “U” stands for unity, the “S” stands for service, and the “N” stands for navigation.  The chain is symbolic of flexibility.  The anchor itself embodies the hope and glory of chief petty officers.

“I’m overwhelmed with happiness,” said Chief Information Systems Technician Gregory Charles, after being pinned. “I love it, I love it, I love it.  I thank God and I appreciate everybody, all the shipmates, the Chief’s Mess. I’m truly grateful to be here.”

The ceremony was the conclusion to Phase Two of the CPO 365 program, which is a year-round training and development course for first class petty officers to become chief petty officers.

“Phase Two is a six-week process dedicated to honing leadership skills for the new chiefs who are our reliefs,” said Senior Chief Operations Specialist Michael Bengtson, Ford’s Phase Two lead. “It focuses on accountability, decisive decision making, and teamwork.”

At the end of the training process, the Sailors are ready to lead.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the 57 new chiefs who joined our mess today,” said Ford’s Command Master Chief Donnie Novak. “They are trained, motivated, and eager to assume their new responsibilities.  They are an impressive addition to an already strong Navy-wide Chiefs’ Mess.”

HAMPTON, Va. (Sept. 16, 2016) -- Mass Communication Specialist Bryan Weyers passes through the sideboys during a chief petty officer pinning ceremony held at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. Fifty-seven Ford Sailors were advanced to chief petty officer during the ceremony, attended by family, friends and crew members. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Fairchild/Released)

HAMPTON, Va. (Sept. 16, 2016) — Mass Communication Specialist Bryan Weyers passes through the sideboys during a chief petty officer pinning ceremony held at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. Fifty-seven Ford Sailors were advanced to chief petty officer during the ceremony, attended by family, friends and crew members. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Fairchild/Released)

 

 

 

The Answer Is…

By Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Media Department

If you were playing a game of Jeopardy and the category was the history of Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), would you know the response to the following clue?

This trivia-loving Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) was the first Sailor from the crew of Gerald R. Ford to appear on Jeopardy.

The correct response would be: Who is Lt. Barbara Colberg?

Former Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Sailor Lt. Barbara Colberg poses for a picture with Jeopardy host Alex Trebec after competing on the television show.

The daughter of a submariner, Colberg majored in Economics and Spanish at Ohio State University, and earned her law degree from the University of Virginia. She chose to serve in the JAG Corps and was the number two officer in Ford’s legal department.

“The absolute best thing about being assigned to Ford was getting to work with such an amazing crew,” said Colberg. “JAGs don’t often get the opportunity to work with Sailors outside of the Legalman rating, so being able to meet so many incredibly hard-working, motivated, and talented Sailors across a variety of different ratings was a privilege and a joy.”

“She’s a phenomenal officer – insightful, and mature beyond her rank,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Cutchen, head of Ford’s legal department.

A long-time fan of the popular game show, Colberg, now assigned as a Legal Assistant Attorney in Newport, Rhode Island, was thrilled to be selected for competition.

When the segment aired Sept. 14, there was no shortage of Shipmates from her former command cheering her on.

Colberg had a strong showing in categories ranging from awards for writing to languages to geography. After correctly answering the Final Jeopardy question, Colberg ended the game with $25,559. The impressive showing earned her second place.

Just for fun… Colberg nailed the response to the Final Jeopardy clue. Do you know the answer?

20TH CENTURY SCIENCE TERMS
This 4-letter word was introduced in London in 1905 by Dr. H.A. Des Voeux of the Coal Smoke Abatement Society.

Response: What is SMOG?

Ford Family Readiness Group

Ensuring Peace of Mind and Mission Readiness

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Litzenberger

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Sailor’s life aboard ship can be demanding, especially when underway. The days are long and the work is challenging. Being a part of the pre-commissioning crew of an aircraft carrier, the first of its class, poses its own challenges as well.

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (June 11, 2016) — Tug boats maneuver Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), into the James River during the ship’s Turn Ship evolution. This is a major milestone that brings the country’s newest aircraft carrier another step closer to delivery and commissioning later this year. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell)

Shipboard testing, crew certifications, sea trials and other evolutions only become more stressful when Sailors are also worrying about their families at home. That’s where Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) Family Readiness Group (FRG) comes into play.

An FRG is a command-sponsored organization made up of spouses, parents, siblings, relatives, and approved friends of military personnel whose goals are to offer family members a line of support to help cope with separation during deployments as well as other challenges that military life may present to families.

“When Sailors know they have an extended family who understands Navy life, it can be a huge relief for the families and reduce stressors that come from deployments,” said Suzanne Fairman, vice president of Ford’s FRG.

“I think of the FRG as an extension of the brotherhood of the military,” said Laura Bitzer, secretary of Ford’s FRG. “We provide a network of support and shared experiences and can help each other out during rough times.”

“We provide events for the families so that they can get to know one another in a fun and safe atmosphere,” said Pamela Hughens, president of Ford’s FRG. “Our role becomes even more important when the ship is deployed because we can provide a welcoming distraction with meet and greets, play dates and other events to keep our families connected and having fun so time passes more quickly.”

It also helps give the service members peace of mind that their families are being taken care of while they are away.

“It benefits Sailors by alleviating one of their ever-present worries—concern for their families,” said Bitzer. “If a Sailor can be confident in the safety and (relative) happiness of their family, then they will be able to more effectively focus on operations and the command mission.”

PCU Gerald R. Ford Christening

NEWPORT NEWS, Va., (Nov. 9, 2013) – Service members, crew, their families and distinguished guests bow their heads as Navy Capt. Jerome Hinson gives a benediction during the ship’s christening ceremony. The Ford-class brings improved war fighting capacity, quality of life improvements and reduced acquisition and life cycle costs. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Grieco/RELEASED)

Joining Ford’s FRG will present great opportunities to establish a support network with other families of Ford Sailors and socialize with different people from various backgrounds says Fairman.

“To join is as simple as sending an email of interest so that we can establish contact information in order to share what we will be planning for future events,” said Fairman.

“We’ve had a slow start so far, with lots of unexpected challenges in getting everything together, but we have tons of great ideas for getting everyone involved and participating,” said Bitzer. “Anyone who is interested and would like to join us, please find us on Facebook! We would love to meet you and start building our extended Ford family!”

For more information or to join Ford’s Family Readiness Group, please contact Ford’s ombudsman or find the FRG on Facebook.

(www.facebook.com/groups/FordFRGCVN78)

Suicide prevention starts with a conversation

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gitte Schirrmacher

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Sept. 10, 2016) – Thousands of people walked at Mount Trashmore Park, some sporting t-shirts emblazoned with the names or photos of loved ones, others sported brightly colored satin ribbons. Though this gathering may have seemed festive, for those attending, it carried a heavier meaning.

The 11th Annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Virginia Beach brought together those who advocate for suicide prevention and awareness in a show of solidarity. Organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), groups formed teams to walk and raise money that the organizations will use for research, education and awareness.

Out of the Darkness Walk

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (September 10, 2016) – Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and their families walk in the 11th annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Mount Trashmore. Out of the Darkness Community Walks are organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise awareness on the effects and warning signs of suicide. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gitte Schirrmacher/Released)

Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Sandra Bannister, assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), organized the team from Ford for the walk this year.

“In 2015, we lost [Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class] Michael Connell,” said Bannister. “A year prior to that, we lost [Machinist Mate (Nuclear) 3rd Class] Micah Farrell. We’ve lost two shipmates in two years.”

When Bannister walked in honor of her best friend, Farrell, Sept. 12, 2015, it was only five days later that Ford lost Connell. In both cases, neither Sailor showed any of the typically reported warning signs, said Bannister. What did happen was erratic behavior that could only be recognized by their peers as out of the ordinary.

“[Those are] factors where a conversation should start,” said Chief Religious Program Specialist Steven Zurek. “Should it start with ‘Are you thinking of suicide’ right off the bat? No. But ‘what are you thinking about?’ Then maybe that leads to the question of ‘are you thinking about suicide?’”

As Ford’s suicide prevention coordinator, Zurek brings suicide prevention and awareness to the crew, deals with the crisis response plan and provides suicide prevention training. Promoting awareness opens up a dialogue, which teaches others how to help those at risk of suicide and gives those at risk the resources to seek help, said Zurek.

“People don’t want to talk about it because it’s taboo,” said Bannister. “The more we talk about it and the more we make it a conversational topic, the less people are going to be afraid to come forward, to bring up their issues, talk about depression and to not feel like something is wrong with them.”

 

Out of the Darkness Walk

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (September 10, 2016) – Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and their families walk in the 11th annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Mount Trashmore. Out of the Darkness Community Walks are organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise awareness on the effects and warning signs of suicide. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gitte Schirrmacher/Released)

Most people at risk of suicide want to tell their story but may be reluctant to share if a reliable avenue isn’t opened up to them to talk about it, said Zurek. Recognizing warning signs such as alcohol abuse, poor relationships, financial troubles and other erratic behavior give others a chance to intervene and ask the tough questions.

“Nobody knows your shipmates better than you do,” continued Zurek. “You have to have that conversation. ‘How are you doing? Are you okay?’ You know when things are changing. Be educated on the topic. Look for those invitations for help.”

Though September is Suicide Prevention Month, suicide prevention should happen 365 days a year.

For more information on suicide prevention and helpful resources go to www.suicide.navy.mil or www.veterancrisisline.net.