A Blast from the Past

WWII Vet Tours Future USS Gerald R. Ford

U.S. Navy Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Litzenberger

A black duty van pulled up along the pier, carrying special guests to tour the new first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The doors to the van opened, and out stepped a seasoned man clad in a command ball cap reading “USS Monterey (CVL 26)” and wielding the brightest of smiles. He was accompanied by his wife and two friends. There was a moment for the group to take in the view of the tremendous warship before boarding and being greeted by Ford’s commanding officer, Captain Richard McCormack, and Ford Sailors.

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Today, Sigmond Alman, a World War II veteran who served aboard Monterey alongside CVN 78’s namesake, Gerald R. Ford, would tour the warship, meet its captain and crew, and share his tales from World War II.

 

“So I was on the flight deck of the USS Hancock (CV 19) during the treaty signing in Tokyo Bay, and man, was it glorious!” said Alman as he told his stories to the crowd of Sailors surrounding him on the flight deck. “It was such a great feeling knowing the war was going to be over.”

 

The sun was finally out after four days of continuous rain in Norfolk, Va. Beads of sweat streamed down some of the Sailors’ smiling faces as Alman enthusiastically shared his stories with the younger generation—setting the scene for one of the best days of the veteran’s life.

 

“This is such an amazing opportunity,” said Alman. “All you men and women here really made today one of the best yet for me. I’m so extremely proud of all of you.”

 

Alman served aboard USS Monterey (CVL 26) as a radioman alongside then Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford, who served as the ship’s assistant navigator and athletics officer. Every step taken aboard the new aircraft carrier named after his old shipmate, and former president, took the veteran one step farther down memory lane.

 

“We really do appreciate today—especially Sig,” said Sharon Alman, Sigmond’s wife. “I know he appreciates you letting him come here and tell you his stories.”

 

“I’ve got lots of stories,” said Alman, immediately followed by laughter from everyone around him and a playful roll of the eyes by his wife.

 

“You know what sea stories are?” teased Sharon. “Well, I’m drowning!”

 

Standing beneath the “78” of the island on the flight deck, Alman looked around at the ship, finally settling his gaze on the junior Sailors rapt in his tales. He seemed to recall his time in uniform many years ago.

 

“It was a tough time back then,” recalled Alman. “A lot of good guys lost their lives from kamikazes, bombs, and fires.”

 

Along the tour of the new ship, the Almans were brought to a damage control repair locker and shown how it helps the crew fight fires, floods, and other casualties that may occur at any given time.

 

“The sacrifices you and the Sailors of your time made helped all of us serving now get to where we are today,” Damage Controlman 1st Class Ryan Vanderstouw told Alman.

 

“And it’s the same for what you’re doing for the next generation,” said Alman. “I’m really proud of you all.”

 

The Almans were waved off the ship smiling brightly and bearing new CVN 78 command ball caps and a coin from the commanding officer, but also leaving with an immense sense of pride for the servicemen and women in the Navy—specifically aboard CVN 78.

 

When asked what he thought of walking aboard a magnificent warship named after an old shipmate, Sigmond had one response: “I’m just glad to be alive to see it! It’s thanks to men like Gerald Ford—and dumb luck—that I’m able to be here today, and boy was it worth it.”

 

“Truly,” said Sharon. “What a legacy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Ford Sailors Train with F-35 Squadron

by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gitte Schirrmacher

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Seven Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) weapons department personnel conducted training with the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 at Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, Florida, Feb. 28, 2017.

Ford Sailors built weapons for the F-35 Lightning platform, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced type of aircraft, so that the squadron could continue to train its pilots.

Ford’s aviation ordnancemen took advantage of the hands-on training and had the chance to put their skills into action. Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Curt Lyons said that the weapons they built are identical to those used on forward deployed ships, making the training a valuable experience for those Sailors who have not yet deployed.

“What we build in schoolhouses and in [other] training environments is completely different from [what we] build for real in the fleet,” said Lyons. “To go out, work with a squadron, and build in that environment — it’s more realistic and it’s a lot better quality training.”

One of the advantages to this hands-on experience is that it provides a mental image of the tools and processes for building ordnance for advancement exams, said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Qwendesha Dennis.

“The training that we did out there was really good for [delivery] of the ship because… it was something that we could bring back to our fellow airmen here on the ship,” said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Dante Parra. “We don’t get a lot of opportunities to see the ordnance, let alone be with the squadrons that deal with the ordnance.”

Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Sean Smith said that one of the biggest advantages to the training is having a designated crew on Ford to build the necessary weapons during deployments.

“For those Sailors that went down there and built those weapons, it’s a big advantage for them when it comes time to actually deploy,” said Lyons. “Not a lot of people get that experience building those 2,000-pound bombs like they got to do down there.”

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (March 21, 2017) — Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Weapons department Sailors pose for a group photo. These seven Sailors trained with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 at Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, Florida. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gitte Schirrmacher) (This image was altered for security purposes by blurring out space markers.)

Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society Season Kicks Off on Ford

The annual Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) season recently kicked off.

The NMCRS has provided Sailors and Marines with need-based financial assistance since 1904.

Last year, Ford averaged about $23 a person per donation. Lieutenant Tom Seland, Ford’s NMCRS officer, would like to see the average increase to $25 this year. He’s seen NMCRS aid Sailors and their families enduring the toughest moments in life.

“We had a Sailor die in a motorcycle accident at a previous command. NMCRS stepped in for the family, helping them with funeral expenses and anything else they could. I’m just really grateful we have a resource like NMCRS. Who else is going to step in and say, ‘Hey, let me help you with that’?”

Seland added NMCRS offers financial counseling and budgeting classes, interest-free loans and grants for emergencies, even specifically tailored classes such as planning for new children or marital budgeting.

“It’s difficult for our Sailors to perform at peak levels when their finances are out of alignment,” said Seland. “Our goal is 100 percent contact, meaningful contact, that informs Sailors about all the services (NMCRS provides).”

The drive cannot be successful without the help of Ford’s departmental NMCRS representatives.

“Based off of the numbers, I think we’re doing a good job of building awareness,” said Ford’s command NMCRS representative, Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) John Thomas. “Ford Sailors received $338,423.29 in total aid last year from NMCRS and donated $52,243.50. That’s a good thing because it means people know about the services and are using them to get help. Hopefully, when they are in a position to, they will give back.”

For more information on NMCRS and what you can do to help, contact your departmental representative, Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) John Thomas at john.thomas@cvn78.navy.mil or Lt. Tom Seland at tom.seland@cvn78.navy.mil.

First in Crew

 

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Connor D. Loessin

NEWPORT NEW, Va (NNS) – Bodies squeeze past each other, notepads and pens clenched in their hands as they struggle to find their seats. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee flows throughout the compartment. Feedback ekes out of large speakers as the room slowly begins to quiet. Words cut across the compartment, clear and sharp.

“Attention on deck!”

The room stands at immediate attention as the Captain and key department representatives begin the navigation brief inside Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) Chiefs Mess.

Doors close and are dogged down, barring access to all but essential personnel. Captains, commanders, lieutenants and chiefs come one after another to present their plans for the ensuing assessment. Members of Afloat Training Group (ATG) Norfolk examine and silently take notes on each presenter as part of their assessment for the ship’s Crew Certification III, an important milestone in determining the ship’s ability to get to sea.

Presenters, now audience members, wait silently in their seats as Commanding Officer Capt. Richard McCormack takes the podium and addresses his Sailors.

“We’ve done this over and over again, and while we have some people that are observing us, what matters is that you’re doing your job and you’re focusing on the task at hand,” says McCormack.

Since the crew moved onto the ship in August of 2015, Ford Sailors have been working diligently to get the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier out into open waters. Crew Cert III plays a vital role in doing so by assessing the basic underway functional areas required for the crew to take Ford safely out to sea.

Sailors are expected to perform the daily duties of their assigned ratings. From maintaining pipes deep in the ship’s hull, to maintaining the newest and most technologically advanced systems such as the electromagnetic aircraft launching system, Ford Sailors are working around the clock to ensure the forward progress of their ship.

As crew certification begins, Sailors listen closely to every announcement coming over the general announcing system or 1 MC.

The training environment is set over the 1MC by Ford’s training officer, Lt. Cmdr. Alicia Salerno.

“Good morning Gerald R. Ford,” said Salerno. “We will remain in the training environment throughout the day. Today’s drills will affect different parts of the ship at different times, so continue to listen to the 1 MC for appropriate responses.”

Sailors bustle about the flight deck and inside the skin of the ship, driven and focused to get the job done.

Suddenly, the clamor of a bell resonates throughout the ship from the 1 MC, being heard from the highest level to the deepest decks.

“Smoke, smoke, smoke,” says the watch stander. “White smoke reported in compartment. Flying squad respond from repair locker four. All hands not involved, stand clear.”

The red coveralls of the flying squad – the Ford’s specially trained damage control team – flood the passageways, darting toward the reported fire shouting, “Make a hole!” Sailors transiting the passageways press their bodies up against the bulkheads, making way for ship’s first responders.

Sailors, in organized frenzy, move in and out of the repair locker, the storage compartment and main hub for combatting the casualty in the area, grabbing firefighting ensembles and assembling into teams.

Again, bells blare out from the 1 MC.

“Medical emergency, medical emergency. Medical emergency reported in compartment. Away the medical response team. All hands not involved stand clear.”

A team of hospital corpsmen dash to the scene of the emergency and once again Sailors make a path, saving valuable seconds for the responders.

Finally, after demonstrating their ability to combat fires and provide effective medical response another announcement comes across the 1 MC.

“This is the Damage Control Assistant from Damage Control Central. Stop the problem, stop the clock. Restow all gear.”

Ford has come a long way since the first piece of steel was cut back in August 2005. Built to help accommodate a forward deployed naval force, a massive first-in-class aircraft carrier doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. Many of the ship’s crew remember the days of working out of a building, without any of the tools essentials to their jobs.

“It’s come a long way,” said Quartermaster 1st Class Jose Triana, leading petty officer for the ship’s navigation department. “We’ve gone from not even having an office, or an instruction, publication, or chart to work on to now being fully allocated and getting ready to go underway for the first time.”

From an empty steel hull, to the now 99% complete aircraft carrier, the ship and its crew have been through their fair share of challenges.

“The guys have come a very long way over the last two years,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Brian Epling. “To see the forecastle come from nothing to the blue deck and white walls is an amazing thing.”

The Sailors became more experienced as the ship progressed through construction.

“They show up big-eyed for something to do and it has taken a while to get to the point where we can just do this like we do now,” said Epling. “Their transformation from coming here and not knowing anything, or just not seeing it, has been an experience. Everyone is fresh. They’ve all built the experience together and it’s been an amazing process so far.”

Through their work ethic and the drive towards the common goal of delivering the ship, the crew’s relationships are strengthened.

“We went from just talking about it and reading slideshows to actually getting ready to go out to sea,” said Quartermaster 2nd Class Audrey Jackson. “It’s so exciting.”

The expectations for the crew’s performance have continued to grow since the first general quarters drill only a year ago.

“It’s been enjoyable watching that growth from a very basic level to the level we’re at now,” said Master Chief Fire Controlman Jason Kutsch, leading chief for training. “I look forward to seeing the crew continue to grow by leaps and bounds over the next couple years.”

Weekly general quarters and nightly duty drills kept Sailors on top of their game as Crew Certification III came to a close.

But the training isn’t over.

“After Crew Cert, we’ll continue to train,” said Salerno. “Next up is a Fast Cruise to make sure we can go out to sea. It’s not graded, but we will send a message out saying we have completed all of our steps to go into the builder’s trials, which is quite extensive.”

Painstaking patience and a commitment to cultivating young talent has resulted in a team that is motivated and prepared to get the job done.

“These have got to be some of the best Sailors that I’ve ever worked with,” said Epling. “This particular crew that I have up here, they want to be here. They want to do this. I appreciate all they’ve done. They’ve come a long way and still have a long way to go, but they truly professional Sailors.”

Sailors return to Ford after supporting OIR

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.”

Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Successfully Completes Crew Certification III 

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Connor D. Loessin
NEWPORT NEWS, Va – Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) successfully completed Crew Certification Phase III Feb. 16, at the conclusion of a three-day fast cruise.

“It is the crew that brings the ship to life,” said Capt. Rick McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer. “The crew is at the heart of all that we do, and I am extremely proud of their hard work and dedication as we work toward making this warship an operational asset to the fleet.”

Crew certification evaluates mission readiness by assessing basic underway functional areas as medical response, damage control and navigation drills, all of which are required before safely proceeding to sea.

“Crew Certification answers the questions: can we fight a fire, and can we save a Shipmate if they’re hurt? Can we safely navigate with other traffic?” said Master Chief Fire Controlman Jason Kutsch, Training department’s leading chief petty officer.

The crew was evaluated by Afloat Training Group (ATG) Norfolk, a training team that ensures a ship and its crew is fully qualified to go to sea.

“We train the trainers and train the fleet,” said Senior Chief Operations Specialist Robert Davis, ATG carrier team lead. “That’s what we do at ATG. It’s not just coming on and watching watch standers perform — it’s about giving people that guidance.”

Although this was the first graded evolution for the ship’s crew, it isn’t the first time Ford Sailors have worked with ATG.

“We have a great relationship with ATG,” said Quartermaster 1st Class Jose Triana, the leading petty officer for navigation department and member of the Seamanship and Navigation Training Team. “We are always in contact with them and they help us out during difficult times, especially with a first-in-class ship. We need to ensure that our personnel and watch standers are qualified, knowledgeable, and have the experience to stand a proper watch and get this ship out to sea for the first time, safely, and without any incidents.”

Triana has seen significant changes in the ship’s readiness since he came aboard in Jan. 2015, both in Navigation and the ship as a whole, noting that when he first reported, there was no Navigation office and no publications or charts on board.

As Ford progresses toward delivery and commissioning, the next scheduled milestone is builder’s sea trials, where Ford will go out to sea for the first time.

The successful completion of Crew Certification is a significant milestone, but for the crew of Gerald R. Ford, training never stops.

“We will continue to step up the complexity of the training and the drill sets as we prepare to get underway,” said Kutsch.