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 or Lt. Tom Seland at

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.



At the height of the Korean War, nearly 9,000 outnumbered Marines shivered in the sub-zero temperatures of North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir Dec. 4, 1950.  Chilly winds combed the rough mountain terrain as eight F4U-4 Corsair fighter jets left the deck of the aircraft carrier, USS Leyte (CV 32).  Though outdated, each fighter was heavily armed and piloted by a Naval aviator seeking to provide support for their brothers-in-arms on the ground below. These young men, most in their early twenties, had little in common except for their love of aviation and duty to their country. One of these pilots was Jesse Brown.

jessebbrown2Jesse LeRoy Brown was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Oct. 13, 1926. As the son of a hard-working but poor sharecropper, Brown’s home provided few comforts. His house lacked the most basic of amenities such as electricity, running water, or an indoor toilet; life was anything but privileged. As a young boy, his days consisted of picking cotton with little reprieve from the sweltering sun.

 In the 1930’s, racial prejudice stood as a wall to the dreams of young black men in a community where segregation was regularly preached and practiced. Goals and aspirations were deemed unreal or unattainable simply because of someone’s skin color. However, as history would show, Brown shone in the face of adversity and became a trailblazer throughout his entire life.

Brown’s fascination with aviation began at an early age, as he would longingly watch the skies over the cotton field where he labored tirelessly each day. As a gifted athlete and student, Brown graduated second in his high school class and was able to attend college on a work-scholarship. As a personal challenge and against advice encouraging him to attend an all-black college, Brown instead attended Ohio State University, where only 1% of the students were black.

Undaunted and steadfast toward his dream of becoming a pilot, Brown enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1946 and was appointed as a Midshipman one year later. In flight school, he was the only black applicant among 600 cadets. Racial tension was strong in America and black service members were largely unwelcomed. Despite continued prejudices and harassment from his peers, on Oct. 21, 1948, Jesse Brown received his wings and became the Navy’s first African-American pilot.

030318-N-0000X-002.jpgOn Dec. 4, 1950, while conducting his 20th combat mission, Brown was shot down over the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.  His wingman, Lt. Thomas Hudner, a white man from Massachusetts, could see that Brown was still alive and crashed his own plane nearby in an effort to save him. Brown’s leg was trapped in the wreckage. Unable to get free, he slowly died of exposure in the blistering cold. Hudner sat with him until he was ordered to go. For his actions, Hudner received the Medal of Honor. Although Brown did not receive a commendation, his contributions to the segregated and desegregated U.S. Military were memorialized in several books and the frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor.

As the Navy celebrates Black History Month this February, Sailors across the fleet are encouraged to learn and recognize the crucial contributions from the African-American community to Naval operations. For more information about Jesse Brown, visit the Naval History and Heritage Command at




Ford’s Innovation Continues with Ship’s Whistle

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kristopher Ruiz

Since the early days of ship navigation, communication has been of the utmost importance to Sailors. In the past, Sailors have used flags, cannons, lights, horns, and musical instruments to relay messages and aid in navigation. The time-honored tradition of the ship’s whistle still holds a place aboard the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced warship.

“The purpose of the ship’s whistle is to notify other ships in the area of our intentions and warn other ships in the event of a problem,” said Lt. Patrick Miller, Ford’s assistant navigation officer. “We can communicate with other ships strictly by using our whistle.”

Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is outfitted with electric whistles rather than the steam whistles that are found on Nimitz-class carriers.  Ford’s whistles are constructed from two Kahlenberg KPH-130C electric piston horns that have an audibility range of two nautical miles and produce an audio level of 143 decibels at 1 meter.  That’s greater than the sound a jackhammer creates (115 decibels) and greater than a jet taking off (130 db).

“The first time I heard one whistle I didn’t think it was too loud, but when both whistles were tested it’s really loud. It’s like having an air horn right next to you,” said Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Alexander Rios, an engineering department Sailor, and one of the electricians that maintains the ship’s whistles.

The ship’s whistle system is comprised of multiple manual controls and one automatic selector that is programmed to automatically deliver maneuvering signals. There are two different types of whistle blasts: a “short” whistle blast, which is one second long, and a “prolonged” blast, which is four to six seconds long. Different combinations of blasts represent different messages. For example, one short blast means, “I am altering my course to starboard,” whereas two short blasts mean “I am altering my course to port.”

Whistles are also used to render “passing honors” between military ships and on occasions when ships, officials, or officers pass in boats or have passed. Passing honors between ships consists of sounding “attention” with the ship’s whistle and all persons on exposed decks rendering a hand salute.

Rios said there are many benefits of having an electric whistle compared to a steam whistle, but the biggest benefit is that it’s easier to troubleshoot and operate than the traditional steam whistle.

“Electrically wise it’s not a really complicated system and I see it as a simple system for us to use,” said Rios. “It’s just another example of the advanced technology that makes Ford a first in class ship.”


161216-N-XU135-002 NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Dec 16, 2016) – Quartermaster Lydia Pandorf, a navigation department Sailor assigned to Pre-commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), simulates using the ship’s whistle inside the bridge. Whistles are used to send messages to other vessels by using different lengths and variations. Ford is outfitted with electric whistles rather than steam whistles that are found on Nimitz-class carriers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Ruiz)