The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed a five-day pierside fast cruise evolution Oct. 23 ahead of departing Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding later this month.
The fast cruise was a culminating training evolution designed to bring Ford to life after her 15-month post-shakedown availability. Sailors across the ship were thrust into various scenarios that tested their ability to respond in challenging and sometimes stressful environments.
Though the PSA mainly focused on making material improvements to the ship, the crew consistently trained and honed their collective skills in an effort to maintain their overall readiness. The Sailors would periodically simulate brief at-sea periods to ensure they stayed relevant on basic seamanship, damage control, navigation and life-saving skills.
“The fast cruise was an opportunity for the crew to put into action the lessons they’ve learned over the past 15 months,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nick Devorak, Ford’s training officer. “While in Newport News, the crew has been regularly conducting General Quarters drills, man overboard evolutions, and the like. The last five days allowed the team a dedicated period to put their knowledge and skills to the test in a simulated at-sea environment.
“Evolutions like the fast cruise are critical because it gets Sailors in the right mindset before taking a warship to sea,” explained Devorak.
While the focus of the fast cruise was on training, the evolution also represented an opportunity for the crew to affect a change in mindset, one from that of being in the shipyard to becoming operational and ready to perform at sea.
“Here on Warship 78, we call this being ‘Warship Ready,’” said Capt. J.J. Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer. “Warship Ready means our time in the shipyard is over and we now look forward to post-delivery testing and trials. We will now focus on taking our ship to sea, becoming operationally ready and training to use the most technologically advanced systems in the Navy.”
For Cummings, being ‘Warship Ready’ means going beyond readiness. It also means being resilient and having resolve. The fast cruise offered an opportunity for Ford Sailors to bolster both.
“Having our Sailors sequestered in at-sea environment – living, eating and sleeping on the ship, allowed them to get a real glimpse of life at sea,” he explained. “There should now be no surprises; our Sailors will fully know what is expected of them as we prepare to take our mighty warship to sea.”
For Sailors such as Airman Adrian Guardo, from Lancaster, California, assigned to Ford’s Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, is looking forward to returning the warship to sea.
“I have trained my whole career for this moment, I joined the Navy to get out to sea and I’m glad we are doing it,” said Guardo.
Next the USS Gerald R. Ford will prepare to depart HII-NNS and begin sea trials where the crew will have an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned at sea. The crew, in cooperation with NNS engineers and shipyard employees, will run through a comprehensive sequence of evolutions to test and validate systems maintained or modified during the PSA. Sea trials is the underway culminating event of the PSA. It is an opportunity for the Navy to more fully evaluate whether the work performed during PSA was completed satisfactorily.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our Sailors,” said Cummings. “They met the challenges of the PSA head on and knocked it out of the park. But it’s time to ditch our hardhats and set our sights on getting back to sea.”
Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are the backbone of the 355-ship Navy the nation needs, offering the lethality, resilience and rapid adaptability required to compete, deter and win in an increasingly complex security environment. The Navy designed the Ford-Class aircraft carrier—the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years— with the warfighting capability essential for the 21st century, and the flexibility and resilience to rapidly adapt to emerging threats. While the Nimitz-class is highly capable, the Ford-class aircraft carrier provides advances in operational availability, flexibility to accommodate high power/energy warfighting advances, increased sortie generation, and improved survivability to defeat projected threats.