Sixty-four Sailors assigned to Pre-commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) are currently deployed on USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, with the goal of bringing back operational experience.
Ford’s crew was recently bolstered by 60 Sailors returning from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower’s (CVN 69) seven-month deployment, who say they now feel ready to help set the foundation for fifty years of operations for the Navy’s newest carrier.
Members of Ford’s crew joined Eisenhower, or “Ike,” as Carrier Strike Group Ten deployed from June 1st to December 30th to support Operation Inherent Resolve in the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations, providing an opportunity for many Ford Sailors to get on-the-job training for the first time in their careers.
“A lot of the people on Ford are brand new to the Navy; it’s our first ship ever,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Salonica Williams, a Ford Sailor who joined Ike on its deployment. “We’re bringing back knowledge to share with people who have never been out to sea, so when we’re commissioned we’ll actually know what’s going on. You can only learn so much from studying and Sailors need experience to be confident and not hesitate.”
While at sea aboard Ike, Ford Sailors had the opportunity to gain experience and qualifications. They earned a total of 28 warfare pins and 139 shipboard and in-rate qualifications.
“After being out to sea, we can even help other Sailors with advancement exams,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Sara Busby. “We know what all the equipment in the hangar bay is for, how it’s used and how to identify different aircraft.”
Williams, Busby and the numerous other Sailors who returned with them said they now feel able to employ newfound confidence, boldness and expertise to help set the foundation for Ford and how it will operate.
“They saw how the programs we’re establishing out here right now operate on a carrier during wartime, and how they’ll eventually run here,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Francisco Quezada. “Now that they see how all the programs and maintenance concepts come together, it gives them a better foundation to eliminate any drawbacks they may have seen while operational. Things can run a lot more smoothly.”
Quezada said having a fully experienced crew, from first class petty officers to seamen, is essential for a work center to operate well, and now Ford’s departments are moving closer to functioning as they would on an operational carrier.
“The working knowledge gained by these Sailors will be a great asset,” said Quezada. “Being out to sea has made them stronger Sailors. They were charged with a mission and they accomplished it. Now they know what it takes to get a mission accomplished, whether it’s getting jets in the air or commissioning a ship.”