Carrier crew moves aboard the Ford

By Lance M. Bacon, Staff writer

Some of the Navy’s youngest sailors are now living aboard its newest carrier.

Roughly 240 junior sailors on Monday departed the barracks and leased apartments to move aboard the future supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, the latest milestone for the first-in-class ship. The flattop will house duty sections of 80 to 100 sailors nightly.

The $13 billion ship has had its share of setbacks as undeveloped technologies such as the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear struggled to keep pace with production schedules. But this milestone nailed its target date, which was two years in the making. Teamwork between the crew and shipbuilders was key, Command Master Chief Donnie Novak told Navy Times.

Crew move aboard requires far more than finding a rack. Electrical and safety systems must be certified; heads and galleys must be in working order. To date, roughly 1,700 of 2,700 spaces have been accepted from shipbuilders, and Ford’s 1,600-member crew now works on the ship rather than in office buildings throughout Newport News, Va.

The move aboard marked the opening of Ford’s unique conglomerate galley, which is centrally located with a hub-and-spoke design that provides three entry points. The crew and ship’s sponsor Susan Ford Bales celebrated with a massive surf and turf spread that included steak, prime rib, crab legs, fish, scallops, shrimp, and lobster bisque. Bales is the late President Ford’s daughter.

“We had some great chow today,” Novak said. It was topped off with a 7-foot cake shaped like the carrier.

Seaman Apprentice Steven Nguyen was happy with the menu, but even happier when it was done. The food service assistant, who has one year in the Navy, was then able to move into his new quarters. The best part for Nguyen: Getting a mattress and sheets no one had ever used before.

The Ford boasts some creature comforts for its new crew. While most carrier berthings house as many as 200 sailors, the average Ford berthing has about 40 racks and the largest tops out at 86. Lounges have been equipped with flat screen TVs, comfortable furniture and plenty of tables for cards and dominoes, but they are located in a separate space to keep things quiet in the berthing area.

Indeed, the comforts and quality of life these young sailors have stepped into is “far and away better” than conditions Novak endured in his 28-year career, but he holds no grudges. Instead, he celebrates the state-of-the-art gyms — “better than any I’ve seen on any ship” — and the fact that heads are inside the berthing areas rather than in the passageways. That means his sailors will no longer have to share and clean a common head used by multiple berthings, nor will they have to trudge through the mess decks to get a shower.

The carrier’s construction began August 2005 and the keel was laid in November 2009. Ford was christened Nov. 9, 2013, and launched eight days later. Delivery of the Ford is scheduled for the spring of 2016.

Back to Top