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.