From INSURV to Delivery


Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson


A Sailor puts on a set of gloves. The blue latex-free gloves fit snug around each hand. While one hand squeezes the spray nozzle of a bottle of disinfectant, the other hand wipes away dust from high, almost unnoticeable areas, preparing for an inspection.


The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) began its inspection with the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) Monday, May 22.


“It’s a tremendous warship, but an even better crew,” said Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. “The Sailors are eye-wateringly good. I’ve been on many sea trials, and I’ve never met a group of Sailors with such a sense of pride and ownership.”


“Ford Sailors’ ownership of the ship and equipment is incredible,” said Capt. Richard McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer. “I am immensely proud of the crew for all their hard work.”


During INSURV, Ford’s crew presented both the ship’s habitability and operational functions. In short, this inspection is conducted to see if the ship was built to Navy standards.


“The purpose of this inspection is like driving a car before you buy it,” said Master Chief Logistics Specialist Gersham Lewis, one of Ford’s INSURV habitability coordinators. “It’s important to the ship because INSURV is like the last line of defense. They are subject matter experts who come on board who say ‘yes, this ship is built like it is supposed to be built,’ or ‘no, it’s not’.”


The preparation and planning for the inspection began months ago. For Lewis, preparation began with a trip to USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).


“I was one of three Sailors [from Ford] who went to the Vinson to observe their INSURV,” said Lewis.


Being a first-in-class ship, the similarities between Ford and a Nimitz class carrier only went so far. Ford has plenty of new equipment, machinery, and spaces to account for.


“Nobody knew exactly what would be going on with the Ford,” said Lewis. “We didn’t know the discrepancies, damages or hits to look for. I had to orient myself by being self-taught and self-motivated.”


Lewis learned the history of why the Navy does this inspection and the standards to abide by.


Another Ford Sailor who went to Vinson was Lt. Cmdr. Mike Collins, Ford’s INSURV supply and habitability coordinator.


“INSURV can be a daunting task,” said Collins. “They come on board and are very specific in what they are looking for. Their aim is material readiness across all warfare areas.”


Before the inspection team came on board, Ford Sailors conducted vigorous self-assessments on habitability and operational functions across the entire ship.


Lewis walked through nearly 400 spaces including berthings, storerooms, the chapel, library, brig, gyms, mailroom, and sanitation areas looking for cleanliness, preservation, stowage, and safety. Many other Ford Sailors followed suit.


“We want to make sure the ship can do what it’s supposed to do,” said Lewis. “This is a warship; we have to prove to be able to go to war. We also have to prove to be able to live on board and meet the standards of the Navy.”


Such a huge inspection can come with feelings of nervousness.


“Any time you have an inspection, there is always a bit of nervousness, even at my level,” said Collins. “It’s the unknown. Yet, as long as you have put forth effort in preparation a little bit of that nervousness goes away.”


That nervousness settled down due to Ford Sailors being well prepared.


“It’s great to see the whole ship come together as a team and execute the plans put out,” said Collins. “We got accolades from the INSURV inspector lead on our professionalism and timeliness.”


One of those compliments was directed at Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Travis Wilkinson, the Ford’s hangar deck leading chief petty officer.


“We’ve been doing this for so long that we weren’t caught off guard with anything,” said Wilkinson. “My Sailors did everything asked of them. They executed flawlessly. We did all of our demos with full responsibility and everything was done to the best of our ability.”


That acknowledgment can be long lasting.


“The accolades they get make them feel a little bit of pride within themselves,” said Wilkinson. “It’s good for my Sailors to know the higher chain of command notices their work.”


Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Glenn Stanfeld was another Ford Sailor who presented his spaces.


“I got a lot of ‘that-a-boys,’ but I was just doing my job,” said Stanfeld. “It made me feel like a superhero. When you think of a superhero, they are really only just doing their jobs.”


The importance of INSURV was felt throughout the entire ship.


“It’s important to our Sailors because it gives us a sense of ownership,” said Wilkinson. “It takes us one step closer to making this our ship and not the shipyard’s ship. It’s our ship now — a U.S. Naval vessel.”



Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Donald Armbruster from Pittsburgh, assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) reactor department, has been named the 2016 Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Engineer of the Year.

The award recognizes contributions to force readiness made by engineering personnel aboard aircraft carriers. Each year, every carrier may nominate a candidate from engineering rates E1-E6 to receive the award as well as a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal from Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic.

“I’m honored and humbled to be selected as the Atlantic Fleet Engineer of the Year,” said Armbruster. “This award or any of my accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible without the love, support and understanding of my amazing wife and caring family. I am extremely grateful to the crew and leadership here on Ford for the inspiration and motivation to make a difference in my division, department and command.”

While serving as reactor mechanical (RM) division leading petty officer, he was selected to fill a gapped E-7 billet. He led 85 personnel within RM division and was responsible for the division’s training program, material condition of 24 spaces, and the maintenance and operation of all reactor department-owned machinery and equipment. Additionally, Armbruster was instrumental in the development and execution of Ford’s enlisted surface and air warfare specialist programs.

“He’s filling a chief petty officer billet, which isn’t exactly uncommon, but he’s highly successful in that billet,” said Senior Chief Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) Derek Meier, Armbruster’s leading chief petty officer. “He’s proactive and involved, keeps information flowing through the chain of command, and sets a high standard for his personnel.”

Armbruster was selected from six total nominees, making him the only Sailor from a non-commissioned command to be nominated.

“In the AIRLANT world, this recognition usually goes to deployed fleet forces,” said Master Chief Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) Jeremy Douglas, Ford’s Reactor Department Master Chief. “For a pre-commissioning unit Sailor to be recognized speaks largely to his character and qualifications.”

Armbruster maintains his command involvement and impact in addition to the rigorous daily operations of RM division. As he approaches 20 years in the Navy, he continues to set the example for his peers, both junior and senior.

“There really isn’t time unless you make it, but where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Armbruster. “As Sailors, we should always be willing to go out of our way to help a fellow shipmate.”

A Blast from the Past

WWII Vet Tours Future USS Gerald R. Ford

U.S. Navy Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Litzenberger

A black duty van pulled up along the pier, carrying special guests to tour the new first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The doors to the van opened, and out stepped a seasoned man clad in a command ball cap reading “USS Monterey (CVL 26)” and wielding the brightest of smiles. He was accompanied by his wife and two friends. There was a moment for the group to take in the view of the tremendous warship before boarding and being greeted by Ford’s commanding officer, Captain Richard McCormack, and Ford Sailors.


Today, Sigmond Alman, a World War II veteran who served aboard Monterey alongside CVN 78’s namesake, Gerald R. Ford, would tour the warship, meet its captain and crew, and share his tales from World War II.


“So I was on the flight deck of the USS Hancock (CV 19) during the treaty signing in Tokyo Bay, and man, was it glorious!” said Alman as he told his stories to the crowd of Sailors surrounding him on the flight deck. “It was such a great feeling knowing the war was going to be over.”


The sun was finally out after four days of continuous rain in Norfolk, Va. Beads of sweat streamed down some of the Sailors’ smiling faces as Alman enthusiastically shared his stories with the younger generation—setting the scene for one of the best days of the veteran’s life.


“This is such an amazing opportunity,” said Alman. “All you men and women here really made today one of the best yet for me. I’m so extremely proud of all of you.”


Alman served aboard USS Monterey (CVL 26) as a radioman alongside then Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford, who served as the ship’s assistant navigator and athletics officer. Every step taken aboard the new aircraft carrier named after his old shipmate, and former president, took the veteran one step farther down memory lane.


“We really do appreciate today—especially Sig,” said Sharon Alman, Sigmond’s wife. “I know he appreciates you letting him come here and tell you his stories.”


“I’ve got lots of stories,” said Alman, immediately followed by laughter from everyone around him and a playful roll of the eyes by his wife.


“You know what sea stories are?” teased Sharon. “Well, I’m drowning!”


Standing beneath the “78” of the island on the flight deck, Alman looked around at the ship, finally settling his gaze on the junior Sailors rapt in his tales. He seemed to recall his time in uniform many years ago.


“It was a tough time back then,” recalled Alman. “A lot of good guys lost their lives from kamikazes, bombs, and fires.”


Along the tour of the new ship, the Almans were brought to a damage control repair locker and shown how it helps the crew fight fires, floods, and other casualties that may occur at any given time.


“The sacrifices you and the Sailors of your time made helped all of us serving now get to where we are today,” Damage Controlman 1st Class Ryan Vanderstouw told Alman.


“And it’s the same for what you’re doing for the next generation,” said Alman. “I’m really proud of you all.”


The Almans were waved off the ship smiling brightly and bearing new CVN 78 command ball caps and a coin from the commanding officer, but also leaving with an immense sense of pride for the servicemen and women in the Navy—specifically aboard CVN 78.


When asked what he thought of walking aboard a magnificent warship named after an old shipmate, Sigmond had one response: “I’m just glad to be alive to see it! It’s thanks to men like Gerald Ford—and dumb luck—that I’m able to be here today, and boy was it worth it.”


“Truly,” said Sharon. “What a legacy.”







Seven Ford Sailors Train with F-35 Squadron

by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gitte Schirrmacher

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Seven Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) weapons department personnel conducted training with the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 at Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, Florida, Feb. 28, 2017.

Ford Sailors built weapons for the F-35 Lightning platform, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced type of aircraft, so that the squadron could continue to train its pilots.

Ford’s aviation ordnancemen took advantage of the hands-on training and had the chance to put their skills into action. Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Curt Lyons said that the weapons they built are identical to those used on forward deployed ships, making the training a valuable experience for those Sailors who have not yet deployed.

“What we build in schoolhouses and in [other] training environments is completely different from [what we] build for real in the fleet,” said Lyons. “To go out, work with a squadron, and build in that environment — it’s more realistic and it’s a lot better quality training.”

One of the advantages to this hands-on experience is that it provides a mental image of the tools and processes for building ordnance for advancement exams, said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Qwendesha Dennis.

“The training that we did out there was really good for [delivery] of the ship because… it was something that we could bring back to our fellow airmen here on the ship,” said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Dante Parra. “We don’t get a lot of opportunities to see the ordnance, let alone be with the squadrons that deal with the ordnance.”

Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Sean Smith said that one of the biggest advantages to the training is having a designated crew on Ford to build the necessary weapons during deployments.

“For those Sailors that went down there and built those weapons, it’s a big advantage for them when it comes time to actually deploy,” said Lyons. “Not a lot of people get that experience building those 2,000-pound bombs like they got to do down there.”


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (March 21, 2017) — Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Weapons department Sailors pose for a group photo. These seven Sailors trained with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 at Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, Florida. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gitte Schirrmacher) (This image was altered for security purposes by blurring out space markers.)

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.”