Ford AIMD Builds First MH-60S Tire

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Litzenberger

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) First MH-60 Tire BuildATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 7, 2017) – An aircraft carrier’s mission symbolizes what the modern Navy is all about: the projection of power from the sea. In order to accomplish this, aircraft carriers are needed to launch and recover aircraft, and a certain department aboard these carriers is vital in the support of this mission. USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) Sailors are doing their part to continue the sequence of milestones for the ship.

As part of Ford’s mission to become fully qualified and operational, AIMD has successfully built an MH-60S tire.

“The tires on fixed-wing aircraft will only last around 10 to 15 launches and recoveries, so it’s necessary for us to rebuild the tires,” said Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Frank Brooks. “We break them down for easier stowage and then rebuild them when needed, so us being able to do this is needed for when we carry more aircraft and conduct longer flight operations.”

“This is the first time AIMD has acquired the resources and equipment to successfully build an aircraft tire,” said Ensign Matt Shaw, AIMD’s IM-2 divisional officer. “This is a significant milestone because now Ford’s AIMD can better support the air wings that we will take on board.”USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) First MH-60 Tire Build

The Sailors supporting these air wings put in a lot of time and effort in order to accomplish this milestone.

“We’ve spent a few weeks at different schools to get our qualifications to do this kind of work,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class William Sekel. “We learned a lot on building F/A-18 tires and different other aircraft. Getting this ship ready for this level of support has really taken a lot of effort from our Sailors.”

A lot of effort leading to a milestone for not only the ship, but for some of the Sailors as well.

“This is exciting for me,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Genesis Fernandez. “I’ve been learning a lot leading up to this point. It’s my first time ever doing this too, so it’s special.”

This milestone serves as a step forward for Ford as the ship conducts test and evaluation operations at sea during Independent Steaming Exercises.

“While air wings are embarked with us, we serve them,” said Shaw. “Any maintenance that is required for an aircraft that the squadrons can’t do due to resources or whatever it may be, we support. Our technicians are qualified to work on aircraft at an intermediate and more in-depth level than what the squadrons are capable of underway.”USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) First MH-60 Tire Build


USS Gerald R. Ford Performs First UNREP

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cat Campbell

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 4, 2017) – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) safely completed its first underway replenishment (UNREP) Monday to include the transfer of 16,000 gallons of JP-5 from USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12). Ford is underway conducting test and evaluation operations.

During an UNREP, supplies such as fuel, ammunition and food are sent across cables from another ship.

“An UNREP is when we refuel and replenish the ship,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Robert Shirley. “That’s how we get supplies when we’re out to sea for long periods of time.”

The number of times an UNREP can occur while out to sea varies on the mission of the ship, said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher Joseph.

With Ford being a brand new, first-in-class aircraft carrier, Sailors from deck department were anxiously anticipating the experience first-hand as Ford pulled alongside McLean.

“This is our first time doing this,” said Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Chauncey Cram. “I’ve been waiting a long time to do an UNREP, and I’m pretty excited.”

The importance of this evolution is well understood by deck department Sailors.

“This is one of the most important qualifications we need for the ship,” Joseph said.

Various factors are also considered in preparation for an UNREP to ensure the conditions support a successful evolution.

“There is a lot that goes into it that people don’t realize,” said Shirley. “Outside of rigging my stations and doing maintenance, which is the part I own, we (as a ship) also have to reach out and figure out the coordinates to be at and figure out the weather. It’s all about on-time execution and being on the same page.”

Safety is always a priority in any evolution, and recognizing the dangers and preparing for the worst is key.

“Several things could go wrong during an UNREP,” said Shirley. “This is probably the most dangerous evolution that Deck department does; it’s two ships side-by-side going through the water hooked up by tension wire. There’s always a danger. We can’t get rid of all of the danger, but we mitigate it the best we can.”

Capt. Richard C. McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, expressed his gratitude towards his Sailors for executing a safe and successful UNREP.

“Today was a significant day for the ship and our crew,” said McCormack. “This is an important milestone in the life of the ship and I could not be more proud of how the team came together to make today’s UNREP a success.”Ford's First Replenishment-at-sea

USS Gerald R. Ford Receives First Torah

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Reed

The first-in-class aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) received a dedicated Torah from the Jewish Welfare Board during a presentation ceremony in the ship’s forecastle Nov. 29, 2017.

The Torah, which means “to guide” or “instruction”, contains the first five books of both the Jewish and Christian Bible, known as the Five Books of Moses.

The hand-scribed Torah took a year to complete and was donated by Philip Kamaras and his family. 

“It is with great pride and humility that my family has donated a Torah to protect and serve the brave men and women who risk their lives daily and travel in harm’s way,” said Kamaras. “My dad was a blue-collar worker who was drafted at age 34 before landing in Europe to fight for the four freedoms. Now his legacy will live on as his Torah sails the world, overlooking brave Sailors and giving them strength.”

Around the Ship

“We are very honored to accept this unique and special donation,” said Cmdr. Steven Barstow, Ford’s command chaplain. “We will cherish this Torah as a command, protect it, and use it to deepen the faith journeys of our Sailors for generations to come.” 

Vice Adm. Herman Shelanski, Naval Inspector General, was a guest speaker at the dedication ceremony.

“It’s a place for Jews to come and to open the Ark, to find that light, that spark, even for thirty minutes every week,” Shelanski said. “There’s an intensity there, a need, and a beauty that this brings to the people that are here on this ship.”

Shelanski also said that Sailors need those moments of spirituality to remind them there is something bigger and greater for them. The Torah is a symbol of that and how they tie that day’s efforts into what they’re doing in their life.


“The Torah is the cornerstone religious text in the Jewish religion, and having it onboard is a huge statement of support for religious diversity and spirituality,” said Lt. Matthew Golub, assigned to Ford’s reactor department. “It provides a physical connection of my Jewish life to the proud tradition of Jews in the Navy and in America.”

Ford’s Flight Deck Flexes Muscles

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jonathan Pankau

NORFOLK – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) pulled into Norfolk Nov 9 after completing their third Independent Steaming Exercise (ISE).

Flexing Ford’s flight deck muscles was the main focus for this ISE and the crew was put through their paces. Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Jorge Ramirez, Ford’s flight deck leading chief petty officer, said one of the main concerns was the new flight deck an bringing together sailors from different backgrounds to work as one.

“It’s not your classic Nimitz-class set up, so a lot of these days underway that we’ve been flying, we’ve been coming up with different ways as to how we’re going to conduct business here,” said Ramirez. “After a couple of days, it seemed like we’d been working together for months for months and that’s just credit to the crew we had onboard.”

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 1, 2017) — An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Gun Slingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Ford is currently underway conducting testing and evaluation operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Reed)

Restrictions were placed on fixed wing aircraft operations due to the ship’s design and uncertified equipment. Ford adapted and overcame, launching 259 fixed wing aircraft and 44 helicopters and pumping more than 145,257 gallons of JP-5 aircraft fuel during 204 refueling operations.

“The team on deck performed flawlessly, even with those restrictions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Roman, Ford’s flight deck handling officer. “It’s the fist time that we saw that many flights ops and to have that many operations going on with the restriction, the team performed impeccably. And that’s what teams do: we overcome challenges and obstacles, so I’m really proud of that.”

The action was not just on the light deck, however. Ford’s Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) assisted routine takeoffs taxiing and landing of aircraft and also helps guide aircraft landings during bad weather conditions, low visibility, or night operations. The Air Traffic Controlmen brought CATCC to life, using advanced radar technology to safely guide aircraft landing on deck.

“We update the weather, bearing and distance to friendly land,” said Air Traffic Controlman 2nd Class Jade Davis. “If we are flying, we are updating if the planes are up, trapped, bolter (fail to catch an arresting wire) and put them in order of whe they are going to land.”

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 4, 2017) — USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Sailors guide an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 during night flight deck operations. Ford is currently underway conducting testing and evaluation operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gitte Schirrmacher)

Roman said Ford has improved leaps and bounds, from planning everything out no computer simulations to executing on the deck.

“From the lowest ranking to the highest ranking Sailor, we were committed to excellence, and that was the only way we were going to do it,” said Roman. “I’ve always said the flight deck is the greatest team sport in history because it takes and entire (aircraft carrier) to come together. And they did.”

The strike groups assisting Ford during ISE3 were integral to the success of the underway. The strike groups were: the “Dragon Whales” of Helicopter Squadron Combat (HSC) 28; the “Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32; the “Sidewinders” of VFA-86; the “Jolly Rogers” of VFA-103; the “Gunslingers” of VFA-105; the “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143.

Eyes on Deck

Story by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Ryan Little

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 8, 2017) — The morning sun has barely risen over the horizon as reveille begins to blare over the 1MC. A crisp morning sea spray blows down the deck left over from the previous night’s storm.  As Sailors onboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) awaken, the sound of morning maintenance has already begun. Engines turn and the firm tone of the flight deck repair team echoes within the wind.

For decades, crash and salvage has been a team of first responders that have taken the watch, overlooking the flight deck on numerous vessels worldwide. These flight deck warriors have provided, time and time again, security for pilots and crew upon the flight deck.

“It’s not so much a job, but more of a family,” says Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Patrick Michael. “We listen to each other’s opinion. That’s how we work as a team.”

The mobile firefighting vehicle known as the P-25, which is capable of dispersing up to 750 gallons of water, mixing with 60 gallons aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), is a perfect example of how teamwork is the soul of crash, Michael said. The three-man team on this truck is dependent upon one another when responding to the scene. The driver, senior man, and junior man are the first responders to a fire on the flight deck.

“The main turret’s primary purpose is to create a rescue path to the cockpit of the aircraft,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Second Class Jawann Murray. “It allows debris and flammable materials to be clear for rescue.’’

As soon as the fire has been pushed back beyond the cockpit, rescue then commences. Using a forklift and the rescue platform, the team lines flush with the side of the aircraft so that the rescue can be conducted.

“It’s only stressful if you’re not prepared,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Jordan Springer. “I like this opportunity to do something that I have never done before. It has made me well-rounded.”

As soon as the pilot is out of the scene and the fire has been extinguished, overhaul enters the scene to perform final residual heat inspection on the aircraft. Using the Thermal Imaging Camera, the team inspects the fuselage of the plane. Approaching and communicating in unison, each step is delicately positioned so that the AFFF is not disrupted.

Soon after the aircraft is removed from the landing area using a tow tractor, it is released to the squadron unit.  Crash then returns to their work center to debrief.

“We are the subject matter experts, the A-team seeing the bigger picture and understanding what it takes to better ourselves,” said Murray.

Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Jarell Holliday, Crash and Salvage’s leading chief petty officer, expressed his outlook on fighting fires.

“Yeah it can be scary from time to time, especially during an actual emergency, but you get that sense of pride when you know that you have done your best with the knowledge that you have been given.”

Holliday was onboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) during the June 22, 2008 fire that broke out below decks. The camaraderie, sense of family and relationships with people who you will never forget are all things he said he will take with him from his experience in crash.

A legacy has been established throughout the years by the watchful eyes overlooking the flight deck. Prepared to save lives, always on the alert, this team will be forever manned and ready for what comes next. They are the Navy’s crash and salvage.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 8, 2017) — USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Sailors, assigned to air department’s crash and salvage team, man the P-25 mobile firefighting vehicle. Ford is currently underway conducting test and evaluation operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Ryan Little)

Ford Completes Independent Steaming Exercise Two

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.”

USS Gerald R. Ford Hosts September 11th Commemoration Ceremony

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Liz Thompson

Sailors, first responders, friends and family gathered in USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) hangar bay today to attend a September 11th commemoration ceremony.

(***FOLDER TITLE GOES HERE***)Captain Richard McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, spoke on the events of September 11th and how the impact is still felt today.

“It’s a somber day,” said McCormack. “What makes September 11th different from other days in our nation’s history, and what makes it stand out? The answer is this – we are still at war. We still send people to the front lines. We are still committed to resolve a problem that became a highlight in everyone’s lives back in 2001.”

Guest speaker, Jeff Wise, Norfolk Fire Department chief, echoed those sentiments.

“Sixteen years ago today, life changed for most Americans,” said Wise. “Over the history of our country there have been many life-changing events, but few have been on our own soil, and fewer were intended to kill as many American citizens as possible while also intending to create fear among those of us who were not directly impacted by the September 11th attacks.”

Wise, as a firefighter, had similarities he related to that of being a military member.

“I have been privileged to speak on the events of September 11th a few times, but today, knowing my audience, I know that you would understand me when I say I felt a call to service. I know many of you felt and responded to that same call.”(***FOLDER TITLE GOES HERE***)

Chief Master-at-Arms Gregory Brooks, of Ford’s security department and the event’s master-of-ceremonies, responded to that same call to service.

“I distinctly remember watching the events unfold on TV; I was in college,” said Brooks. “I always knew I would join the military, but for me it solidified my call to service and motivated me. I ended up enlisting shortly after that, faster than I had originally planned.”

Many around the country, civilian or military, answered that same call to service.

“As I look back on September 11, 2001, I realize the first Americans to fight back and resist the terrorists were the civilians and service members who came to the aid of others in a grave time of need,” said Wise. “The members of public safety were the first to take action towards this man-made destruction.”

Wise reflected on the camaraderie of the country between civilian and military members alike.

“In the weeks after September 11th, as a firefighter I remember feeling a sense of relief as the United States military was taking over the fight,” said Wise. “In the firefighting profession, when you get called to a fire near shift change, it is likely that you will get relieved from your shift at the scene of a fire. In the same way it seemed like the United States military, with a symbolic pat on the back, said ‘You can take a breath now, the fight is now ours, we have your back.’”

(***FOLDER TITLE GOES HERE***)Coming together and having each other’s backs was a theme of both speakers’ speeches.

“I think the lesson of September 11th is resiliency,” said McCormack. “What we learned that day is that we have resiliency. It doesn’t matter what color, creed, orientation, where you’re from, whether you’re a citizen or not; everyone came together and fought a common fight.”

The addition to the sentiments of unison, there was also an undertone of remaining strong while answering the call to service.

“As a fire chief, a father, a grandfather, and as an American, I believe in peace through strength,” said Wise. “If there was ever a ship built to send that message it is the USS Gerald R. Ford.”