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.”