Gerald R. Ford, John F. Kennedy Sailors Work Together for Ford-Class Success

US Navy | Aug. 13, 2021

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Stamer, USS Gerald R. Ford Public Affairs

In order to provide other Ford-class Sailors the opportunity to operate and to qualify on the new equipment, Sailors assigned to pre-commissioning unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) are serving in temporarily assigned duty (TAD) billets aboard Ford in several different departments, including reactor, engineering, supply and aviation.
Sailors from Kennedy’s reactor department comprised the first group sent to experience how the new systems operate and to qualify on Ford-class-specific watch stations.

“We started this partnership shortly after establishing the command by sending our reactor Sailors to train onboard Ford in order to gain valuable operating experience and earn qualifications,” said Capt. Todd Marzano, Kennedy’s commanding officer. “Not long after they reported, we received extremely positive feedback from those who spent time underway. And throughout the past year, we have sent many more Sailors from a number of different rates to do the same. Bottom line, we’re definitely fortunate to leverage first-in-class lessons learned and best practices to ensure we are fully qualified and ready to test and safely operate our equipment as we prepare JFK for delivery.”

From the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) to the baking ovens in the galley, Ford-class ships boast 23 advanced technologies not found on the legacy Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

“We have notebooks full of data right now with what we thought the process was going to be versus what it is, and then notes on how it’s so different from other ships,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Jeremy Smith, from Slidell, Louisiana, leading petty officer of Kennedy’s supply department, S-2 division. “I want to gain as much knowledge as I can.”

“It’s a completely different layout and a completely different operation,” added Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Nicole Little, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, assigned to Kennedy’s supply department and who previously served on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). “Nimitz class has five galleys, but Ford and Kennedy only have two, and there are new elevators that we need the qualifications to operate.”

Several of the Sailors sent from Kennedy are nearly straight from accession training or “A” School, where they received technical training in their selected military occupational specialty and are now operating their equipment for the first time. While many others have years of experience working in engine rooms or on flight decks on various platforms.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st class Ryan Tillis, from Ocean Township, New Jersey, assigned to Kennedy’s air department who previously served on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), is fully qualified on steam-driven catapults, but had never launched aircraft using EMALS. He said he is working to learn the system and become fully qualified before leaving Ford.

“The EMALS system is completely different than what is used on other platforms,” added Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Luis Linares, from Petén, Guatemala, the catapults leading chief petty officer for Kennedy. “It’s more complex in the sense that instead of using steam, we’re use electromagnetic electricity to launch aircraft and there is no decreasing power from the catapult. It’s a good system that is designed to be more efficient in order to launch aircraft faster and with less personnel during flight operations, and the aircraft maintain the same amount of speed from the beginning to the end of the launch.”

The Sailors TAD from Kennedy are not merely ship-riders or trainees standing back taking notes and watching. They are launching and recovering aircraft from the flight deck, cooking meals in the conglomerate galley, and standing the watch rotation in engineering and reactor spaces, accumulating real-world, hands-on experience while working side-by-side with their Ford counterparts.

“Several of our Kennedy Sailors are on the watch bill supporting the Ford reactor department, where they are able to see technological advances that are on Ford and the differences between previous platforms,” said Lt. j.g. Cheyenne Scarbrough, from Fairfield, California, the reactor electrical technical assistant for Kennedy. “They are on the watch teams and they are going through drills. They have also had the opportunity to go through a major inspection.”

Scarbrough said she believes the experience will make Kennedy better prepared for operations.

“Every ship that comes after in this class can use Ford as the baseline,” said Scarbrough.

Kennedy’s enlisted Sailors expressed the same sentiment and said they feel fortunate to be part of the Ford-class legacy.

“We will be part of that initial crew that started up Kennedy,” said Tillis. “I’m blessed that I got picked for it because it’s not often you actually get to commission a ship. Only a few people get to say that they did that.”

Ford and Kennedy are the first of four Ford-class ships that have been procured by the U.S. Navy. Experience and hands-on training will continue to be essential to achieving operational readiness in the shortest amount of time as the ship class matures.

“It is great to have JFK Sailors aboard and be able to leverage our lessons learned,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s commanding officer. “It’s an honor to serve alongside our Sailors who are paving the way for those that will serve on Ford-class carriers for generations to come.”