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.”

Firsts for a First

Shoot for ReleaseBy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 15, 2017) – Each time that the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) heads to sea, it leaves a trail of milestones and “firsts” in its wake. Ford’s most recent two-week underway period saw that trend continue, as the ship continued test and evaluation operations.

This underway period saw the accomplishment of three planned milestones: rotary wing wind envelope testing, flight deck fuel certification, and replenishment at-sea lineup testing. Each of these tests provided important information to guide the design of future carriers as well as an opportunity for Ford’s crew to put into action everything that they have been training to do during the ship’s construction and sea trials.

One of the primary goals of this underway was wind envelope testing for rotary wing fight operations.

“The purpose of the tests was to verify and try to expand the helicopter wind envelopes on Ford-class carriers,” said Cmdr. Thomas Plott, Ford’s Air Boss. “This allows us to safely launch and recover helicopters in a variety of diverse conditions.”

Ford conducted its most extensive flight operations to date this underway. To help facilitate that workload, Ford’s air department was able to certify the ship’s flight deck capable of delivering aviation fuel.

“This fuel certification [is] the culmination of years of hard work and determination from hundreds of Sailors and civilian contractors,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) Joshua Faulds, Ford’s V-4 division leading chief petty officer. “To watch the system come to life over the past year has been a truly unique experience, and one of which I will never forget. The lessons learned from our certification will strengthen the foundation of knowledge for all future Ford-class aircraft carriers.”

Being able to fuel aircraft and conduct flight operations are only a small part of sustaining the United States’ ability to project power around the globe. Nuclear power gives an aircraft carrier the ability to operate without refueling for a quarter of a century, but an aircraft carrier must be able to take on fuel and provisions while at sea.

To that end, Ford successfully performed two replenishment at-sea approaches alongside the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS William McClean (T-AKE 12). These approaches took place with as little as 200 feet of separation between the two vessels and were designed to test the positioning and handling characteristics of Ford during future underway replenishments.

Not all of the firsts that were accomplished by Ford and its crew were planned far in advance.

On Aug. 7, the crew of Ford and the “Night Dippers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5 assisted a shipmate in distress from USS The Sullivans (DDG 68). It was Ford’s first MEDEVAC as a commissioned warship.

On Aug. 10, Ford was visited by the 76th Secretary of the Navy, the honorable Richard V. Spencer, in his first visit to a U.S. Navy ship while underway.

“I came aboard this big ship and was impressed at 20 miles out. My awe grew every single mile we came closer, but that was overshadowed by the people I’ve met today,” said Spencer to the crew during an all-hands call in the hangar bay. “This is a magnificent ship, but you all make it the tip of the spear that it is.”

While underway, Ford Sailors also took time to hone the ability of the ship to defend itself against potential adversaries. Ford’s weapons department conducted the first underway live fire qualifications for the M9 pistol and the M240B machine gun.

“It’s one of our last lines of defense,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Patrick Flint, one of the instructors for the live-fire qualification. “If something crosses our threshold and they’re hostile, we’re guns-on. Nobody is getting through.”

This underway was not just about testing Ford’s systems and Sailors, it was also a chance to recognize the hard work that has gone into making Ford more than a steel ship floating on the water. On Aug. 15, nine Ford Sailors were recognized as the ship’s first Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist and Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist-qualified Sailors.

“There’s a lot of pride and respect that comes with earning wings. It’s a great accomplishment. It means you understand how all the aspects of air warfare come together, how each rate operates and fits into the larger picture,” said Aviation Boatswain Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class Franklen Garrett. “I said from the time I got here that I wanted to be among the first to earn a pin on the Ford. I couldn’t be more proud, and I encourage everyone to put in the work and take this opportunity.”

Ford’s crew was also able to take part in the ship’s first “steel beach picnic” Aug. 12. During a break in underway testing, the crew held a cook-out on the ship’s flight deck complete with hamburgers, hotdogs, and side items. The ship’s Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division also set up inflatable games in the ship’s hangar bay and sponsored a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

“It was a nice relaxing environment where people didn’t have to be so concerned with work at that moment,” said Personnel Specialist 1st Class DeAndrea Douglas, Ford’s Morale Welfare and Recreation leading petty officer. “Those few hours off made a huge difference, [they] had a huge impact on the crew.”

Gerald R. Ford Sailors Celebrate Namesake’s Birthday in Advance of Commissioning

Sailors aboard the soon-to-be commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) celebrated their namesake’s birthday July 14.

“It’s fitting that we take time today to honor the legacy of a great American who devoted his life to serving his country – as President, as Vice President, as a Michigan Congressman, and as a Sailor in the United States Navy,” said Capt. Rick McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer. “Today we celebrate his birthday. And in just a few more days when his daughter, Susan, our ship’s sponsor, gives the traditional command to “Man our ship and bring her to life,” Ford’s legacy will continue as we officially enter active-duty service. The best way we can honor our namesake is to follow President Ford’s example and provide a warship and crew that is capable, trained, and ready to serve our nation.”

The Gerald R. Ford is the first of the Ford-class carriers. The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, named in honor of the nation’s 38th president, will be commissioned July 22 and will provide the nation with fifty years of service.

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Gerald R. Ford was born in 1913 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and served aboard the light aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26). In 1943, he was sent to the South Pacific and took part in the battles for Truk, Guam, Formosa, Marianas, and the Philippines. After being honorably discharged in 1946, Ford returned to Grand Rapids and became partner at a prestigious law firm before beginning the first of 13 terms in the House of Representatives. Ford became Vice President of the United States in 1973, and President in 1974 following President Nixon’s resignation.

“I’ve been aboard since November 2014,” said Yeoman 3rd Class Shane Morgan, from Venus, Texas, assigned to Ford’s administration department. “I’ve seen a lot of great milestones, to include the first meal onboard, and I look forward to seeing and being a part of this upcoming commissioning and all the great milestones we have yet to set.” “It’s been a long journey getting here,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Careese Charlesboughter, from New York City, assigned to Ford’s medical department. “I am proud to be a Gerald Ford Sailor, I am proud to be a plankowner, and I’d like to believe that if Gerald Ford was alive today he’d be happy to see what we’re doing on the ship that bears his name.”


Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson

NORFOLK, Va – The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), participated in one of the oldest naval traditions when it hosted its first baptism inside the ship’s forecastle, June 24.

Lt. John “Jack” Curran, from Silver Spring, Maryland, a Ford deck division officer, and his wife, Lt. Emily Curran, from San Antonio, Texas, an assistant project officer for carrier new construction at the Supervisor of Shipbuilding and former Ford nuclear surface warfare officer, celebrated the baptism of their three-month old son during a ceremony in front of family and Ford Sailors.

“Because Jack and I both served on this ship, we hold a special place in our hearts for this ship and our extended Navy family,” said Emily Curran. “We thought it would be an honor to have our son baptized into the faith and into our Navy family here on a ship that has meant a lot to the both of us.”

“The tradition blesses the child and all the seas that he will go on,” said Jack Curran. “It’s a time-honored tradition that we got to continue today.”

The custom of baptizing infants aboard ships dates back to the British Royal Navy, when baptisms were conducted in foreign ports or at sea. Traditionally the infant is baptized under or inside the ship’s bell.

The baby’s name will be engraved inside of the bell where it will stay with the ship through the entirety of the ship’s service in the fleet. When the ship is decommissioned, the bell will be given to the Curran family.

With the Ford built to provide the nation with 50 years of service when it is commissioned July 22, it will be several decades before any bell is received.

“We are really grateful to be the first on board to have our son baptized and grateful to have friends and family to be able to come and support us to welcome our son into the faith and the Navy family,” said Emily Curran.

Presiding over the baptism was Lt. Jamal Scarlett, a Ford chaplain from Murrieta, California.

“I’ve done many baptisms when I was a parish priest, but this is my first baptism on any ship,” said Scarlett. “I feel incredibly honored and humbled to perform the first baptism on ship. To be asked to participate in something historic – a long held tradition that goes all the way back to the 1700’s – that is a blessing. Being the first on this carrier is even more of a blessing.”

The ship’s bell will be engraved with the name of every child baptized in or under it. Yet its final resting place will be with that of the Curran family, the first family to baptize their child on the future USS Gerald R. Ford.