The U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) recently progressed toward another major milestone during the ship’s 10th window of opportunity for maintenance (WOO 10), ensuring mission readiness for its upcoming independent steaming event (ISE).
While in port for Ford’s WOO 10, the ship accomplished necessary maintenance and construction projects required to embark personnel from Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8) and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 staff. Ford’s next independent steaming event, ISE 10, will be the most robust air wing and strike group embark to date, bringing total ship’s company to more than 3,700 personnel.
“Our role is to support the air wing, and that doesn’t stop when we’re in-port,” said Capt. J.J. Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer. “Our crew continues to work hard to make preparations, maintain equipment, conduct training, and remain healthy to ensure we are ready to carry out our mission to fully support integrated air wing operations.”
Ford, CSG-12 and CVW-8 utilized WOO 10 as a launchpad for integrated operations for the upcoming at-sea period. CSG-12, with experience from their recent record-breaking deployment with USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and CVW-7, sent CVW-7 operations and intelligence officers to assess Ford’s ready rooms and mission planning spaces to provide recommendations on how to best execute command and control (C2) with Ford’s unique capabilities.
During ISE 10, CSG-12 will assess Ford’s C2 capability and CVW-8 will operate over 30 fixed-wing aircraft and MH-60R/S Seahawk detachments from both Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) squadrons and Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) squadrons.
“This will be the first time Ford has brought on an air wing and our carrier strike group staff, so we’re intentionally going to stress the ship’s systems and the crew to see how well we integrate as one cohesive unit,” said Cummings. “This is our first opportunity to conduct cyclic flight operations with an air wing. I am extremely excited for the crew because loading up the flight deck with air wing aircraft will give them a quick snapshot of what deployment will feel like.”
During WOO 10, extensive preparations were conducted to support the embarkation of more than 1,000 personnel from CVW-8 and CSG-12.
“To sustain the full complement of Ford and air wing personnel, Ford’s supply department on-loaded more than 400 pallets of stores and began coordination for a Replenishment-at-Sea to refresh fruits and vegetables while underway,” said Cmdr. Carl Koch, Ford’s Supply Officer.
In an exhaustive and collaborative effort to finish more than 125 offices and berthing spaces for 199 air wing officers and strike group staff, Ford Sailors with support from Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding Division, Naval Sea Systems Command, and Technico completed outstanding work of 625 lines of testing to include ventilation balancing, phone hookup and minor amenities installs.
During Ford’s in-port period, the crew was able to accomplish this work while simultaneously adhering to strong COVID-19 mitigation protocols that required innovative training methods.
“There’s value in being able to provide specialized training to Sailors,” said Cummings. “Like many industries across the nation, we’ve had to adapt during the Coronavirus pandemic, and we’ve found innovative ways to provide quality training while keeping in compliance with COVID-19 mitigation protocols and best practices.”
One of the adaptive training events Ford conducted was watertight door (WTD) training for Ford’s damage control petty officers (DCPOs). The training was held to increase proficiency in maintaining Ford’s first line of defense in damage control fittings.
To ensure the class could be conducted safely, Ford’s Damage Control Assistant engaged with Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic’s (CNAL) WTD school supervisors to request reduced class sizes to maximize social distancing.
“This watertight door training is hands-on for the GRF Sailors, because it’s imperative that they understand what they’re reading on that maintenance card when they’re doing the actual maintenance,” said Curtis Houchins, from Pine Hill, New Jersey, Master Trade Person-4 and a CNAL school supervisor for watertight door training. “They need to understand why they’re checking — and fixing — a door and what they should be looking for when performing the corrective maintenance on them. That’s what this training is geared towards.”
Last week, eight Sailors from Ford’s Air Department were the first to attend the modified version of WTD school, the most complex maintenance that a DCPO will complete aboard Ford. This training will expand Ford’s DCPO’s maintenance prowess as the ship works towards full system shock trials, an event that will stress the ship’s over 900 fittings to the extreme to validate system design and thousands of man-hours of hard work.
“This training is great because it’s a process where you actually observe what you’re learning and apply it to protecting the integrity of the ship,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Rey Talisayon, from Miami, Florida. “It was very hands-on and you can tell the instructors really know what they’re talking about and doing, because they were like us once before, just starting to learn about watertight doors and taking ownership of the preventative maintenance that goes along with them.”