(ATLANTIC OCEAN) – While underway for Independent Steaming Exercise Five, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed 401 catapults and arrestments, bringing the total to date to 747. On the final day, Jan. 19, the Ford and Carrier Air Wing 8 team completed 135 traps.
Several commands came together to complete this phase of testing, to include VFA-31 “Tomcatters”, VFA-213 “Black Lions”, VFA-87 “Golden Warriors”, and HSC-9 “Tridents”.
The next opportunity for fixed-wing flight operations will be after Ford completes its planned maintenance availability.
Ford successfully tested its first-in-class technology, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on July 29. Since then Ford’s air department has worked countless hours to get to this point.
“It’s a great sense of accomplishment, not only for me but for my crew as well,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Reginald Leonard, V-2 division arresting gear leading petty officer, from Marshall, Texas. “We came through all the adversity, received good test data.”
The main challenge, said Leonard, came from testing a brand new system that no other Navy Sailor had even seen before, let alone worked on.
“It had to have been the toughest part,” said Leonard. “During all those times, I sat my Sailors down, explained to them what we were doing, what the mission was and told them to push through.”
Many Sailors found on the job, hands-on training the best way to learn while they were out to sea.
“We could read the books that tell us how to do the job from A to Z but when you’re actually working on it, it’s a whole new ball game,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Andrew Yanez, from Chicago. “It made me become a more efficient Sailor.”
Lt. Cmdr. Jaime Roman, Ford’s Handler, from Queens, said he is proud of the growth of the Sailors.
“I’ve been in the Navy for 27 years and yesterday was by far the most humbling experience of my naval career to see how far we’ve come as a team,” said Roman. “From the shipyards, to testing, to the 135 traps we did yesterday, the team that we’ve built in air department is unmatched. I would go on deployment with this team tomorrow if they would let us.”
Weather impacted the first days of the independent steaming exercise, with flight operations delayed on one day due to 13 foot seas and wind gusts of over 50 miles-per-hour. Flight operations were held that evening when conditions abated.
“It shows their resolve,” said Roman. “This is what we are out here for. The mission was to get as much testing done as we could safely do, and that shows the dedication of the crew. They took ownership in these systems.”
Roman said he couldn’t be happier with his Sailors.
“I want to tell my guys thank you,” said Roman. “To be here as a handler and see their dedication to the mission. Everybody gelled as a team and everything came together and everybody did their job. Thank you for being who you are and for your dedication and commitment.”