More than 100 Sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) attended a special ribbon-cutting ceremony, May 15, to officially establish the crew of the first Ford class aircraft carrier and open the building where they will work while the ship is constructed.
“The Shipyard and the crew decided to have a turnover and an official ceremony to stand up PCU Ford. As our first official function as a crew, we wanted this ceremony to help us say ‘we are a crew’,” said Cmdr. Robert Kurz, Combat Systems Officer. “The Commanding Officer just arrived back from school as did our Executive Officer, and we have a total of 170 Sailors onboard at this time, so manning is extremely minimal.”
Sailors from Ford had a few offices that were run out of the 4th deck of building 608. In April, the command took over the whole building as the home for their PCU offices. Now with their office space established, the crew is working to increase their community involvement and raise awareness about the new carrier.
“There is still a great deal of work that has to be done before our ship is fleet ready,” said Capt. John F. Meier, Commanding Officer. “With the beginning of the crew here today, and the official start of our new facility that we will be operating out of until our ship is ready, we are now well on the way.”
One of the primary focuses at this time is to build the base structure of the command, by writing ship specific instructions, beginning to form the departments and understanding the security levels, all from the ground up.
“CVN 78 is going to be a great ship, with great potential for the Navy,” said Meier. “But, without our Sailors, we couldn’t bring the ship to life.”
On the count of three the ribbon was cut by Meier and Rolf Bartschi, vice president for Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) construction at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, in front of the building while the ship’s current crew stood by.
“The crew coming onboard is a sign that the ship is beginning to come to life,” said Bartschi. “Soon we will be bringing on operating systems to start testing before they are welded into place, testing electrical readiness for the ship, testing pumping of fluid through piping systems. This is a huge step forward for us!”
Named for the 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and early decisive striking power in a major combat operation. The carrier and the carrier strike group will provide forward presence, rapid response, endurance on station, and multi-mission capability.
Recently, Ford celebrated a milestone with the announcement that the flight deck was complete following the final “Super Lifts” which placed the forward bow section and a final sponson.
Press Release, June 7, 2013; Image: US Navy