U.S. Navy Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gitte Schirrmacher
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) tested and evaluated the ship’s capabilities as part of a series of several required underways called Independent Steaming Exercises (ISE). ISE-2 began Sept. 29 and daily flight operations helped the Sailors assigned to Ford’s air department train in preparation for flight deck certification.
“ISE-2 has been a practice run for us, which is an opportunity most ships don’t get,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Roman, Ford’s flight deck handler. “Most ships coming into ISE come right from the shipyard into flight deck certification. For us it’s been a great advantage where we can actually practice for ISE-3 and flight deck certification.”
One of the major events was nighttime flight operations. Sailors from the “Salty Dogs” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 said the evolution went smoothly.
“Just like any carrier, our mission objective is to be able to give air support,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Edwin Mangona, one of Ford’s flight deck chiefs. “There are a lot of people who think that because we can operate at night, it gives us more of an advantage wherever protection is needed. There is no certain time we can’t protect. When we are in country and give our troops on the ground protection, we’re 24/7.”
Ford conducted 83 launches and 83 traps with VX-23. Additionally,
helicopter operations were conducted with the “Sea Dragons” of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 12, the “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, and the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9.
“During the next underway, we’re going to be certifying our flight deck,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Hannibal Johnson-Bey. “We need qualified, knowledgeable, and read-to-go junior airmen to get the aircraft off the elevators expeditiously. We have a lot of junior airmen who are ready to learn, and we need to train them the best we can.”
Mangano said he’s confident in the crew’s and ship’s operating capabilities. However, it’s not just the job of air department to get aircraft off the deck.
“It takes an entire team, the entire ship,” said Roman. “It’s not just an air department role. Everybody plays a role in launching and recovering aircraft. I really think for the entire ship that ISE-3 is going to bring the ship to life and everybody plays a role in that. I think this period here kind of gave us a taste of how that will look and ISE-3 will bring the entire team together.”