The aircraft carrier USS
Gerald R. Ford, seen here in a
combination model and live shot
photo, is the first in the US Navy's
next generation of warships, the
Ford class. USS Gerald R. Ford is
expected to be commissioned in
2017. The next Ford class ship, the
John F. Kennedy, is due in 2020.
The Ford-class design is the first
major aircraft carrier update since
the Nimitz-class was commissioned
The Gerald R. Ford was
launched from dry dock into Virginia's
James River in November
The USS John F. Kennedy
(CVN 79) will be the second carrier
in the Navy's new Ford-class.
It is currently under construction at
Newport News Shipbuilding in
Virginia and will be commissioned
To put the Gerald R. Ford's
massive size into perspective, the
finished carrier measures 1,106
feet long and 250 feet high.
The completed USS Gerald R.
Ford holds a number of welcome
quality-of-life upgrades for sailors
over the previous Nimitz design,
including quieter sleeping quarters,
numerous recreation areas and
gymnasiums as well as better air
The Ford itself will cost
U.S. taxpayers $12.8 billion in materials
and labor. This doesn't take
into account the $4.7 billion spent
in research and development of the
new carrier class. And, seriously,
we're talking about a lot of labor.
Each part built for a Fordclass
carrier starts its life as a fullscale
3D model inside Huntington
Ingalls Industries' Rapid Operational
Virtual Reality (ROVR) system.
It it the first U.S. carrier to
be designed using such computerized
The Gerald R. Ford also
uses augmented-reality technology
to give its crew more insight into
the ship's systems and improve efficiency.
The building of a 90,000-ton warship
always begins with a single
Newport News Shipbuilding held
the Commemorative First Cut of
Steel Ceremony for the John F.
Kennedy on Feb. 25, 2011.
Newport News Shipbuilding estimates
that 4,000,000 pounds of
metal will be required just to weld
the ship together.
For further perspective on
the size of this carrier consider that
the propellers are larger than a typical
house and will help the new
class of ship reach speeds of 35
miles per hour-not bad for a 22.5-
million pound sea vessel.
The new Ford-class carriers
were designed to require significantly
less plumbing. The
Kennedy, for example, has onethird
fewer valves than warships in
the older Nimitz class.
The Navy is already preparing
for combat and sailors from the
ship's Combat Systems department
have scheduled practices loading
dummy RIM-162 Evolved Sea
Sparrow Missile into the NATO
Sea Sparrow Missile System
launcher. The same day, Gunners
Mate 1st Class Ernest Quinones
and Gunners Mate Darius Bloomfield
also prepped one of the Ford's
.50-caliber machine guns during a
general quarters drill, while a team
of Fire Controlmen aboard the Gerald
R. Ford fed dummy ammunition
into the ship's MK-15 close-in
weapon system during a maintenance
check. This advanced practice
will insure the ship goes into
the Line ready for full combat duty.
Much of the ship is completed.
Newport News Shipbuilding's
crane, "Big Blue," moved the
island, aka the air traffic control
tower, onto the Gerald R. Ford in
The heaviest piece of the seaworthy
puzzle weighs in at 1,026 metric
tons (2.26 million pounds). The
gallery deck to flight deck bridge is
the heaviest component piece of
the USS Gerald R. Ford.
It measures 128 feet wide
by 128 feet long and houses the
ship's firefighting, jet fuel and catapult
In the past, major military vessels
were built in one piece from the
ground up. Today, the shipbuilding
process is modular. Like the flight
deck bridge, workers recently put
the final piece of the Gerald R.
Ford's stern and the 680-metric-ton
lower bow unit into place.
In May 2012 workers Finished
off the keel, joining the lower
bow unit to the keel of the USS
Gerald R. Ford.The upper bow unit
alone weighted 787-metric-tons.
The catapult unit for aircraft launch
weighs over Two million pounds. It
was amazing to watch
the forward end ofone of the aircraft carrier's catapults
put into place by a massive
1,050-metric ton gantry crane.
On a more personal note,
The USS Gerald R. Ford has
hosted a number of important dignitaries
from the private and public
sectors. In June of 2016, Captain
Richard McCormack gave a tour of
the ship's bridge to New England
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick
and his wife.
Susan Ford Bales visits the
USS Gerald R. Ford during the
building process in 2011.
Adding to the authenticity
and lineage, the daughter of the
late president, helped a shipbuilder
position part of the vessel's main
deck. Ms. Ford-Bales also helped
test the carrier's new anchor-handling
The anchor on the Gerald
R. Ford weighs a massive 30,000
pounds; its chain is 1,440 feet long.
It took 200,000 gallons of
paint to coat the warship. As the famous
old sailor adage goes: "If it
moves, salute it; if it doesn't, paint
it." And indeed, painting was a key
part of the process at Newport
News Shipbuilding and required
between 120 and 170 workers to
get the job done.
The new, self-healing coating
on the Gerald R. Ford was formulated
to resist heat and UV rays.
The Newport News Shipbuilding
yard. employs approximately
20,000 people and is the
only designer and builder of aircraft
carriers in the United States.
It will have taken a team of
approximately 5,000 people, Roes
included, to build and assemble the
Workers at Newport News
recently inactivated the USS Enterprise
(CVN 65).While observing
the completion of the USS Gerald
Ford, the USS Theodore Roosevelt
(CVN 71), was seen at the shipyard
undergoing refueling and complex
overhaul (RCOH) at a neighboring
The new Ford carrier class
will require 30 percent less maintenance
than these older Nimitz design
ships, resulting in long-term
cost savings for the government.
Roughly 1,600 sailors
began working and living aboard
the ship starting in August 2015 as
part of the testing process.
The ship is all American
and will feature shopping on the
high seas. Sailors can obtain many
of the comforts of home in the Gerald
R. Ford ship store using their
Navy Cash debit card.
It's not all hardship, sacrifice
and trough-made meals aboard
the Gerald R. Ford; sailors can still
get their Starbucks fix at Mac's
coffee shop, located inside the
All revenue from the coffee
shop goes to support the ship's
Sailors, of course, have the
opportunity to participate in regular
religious services aboard the
Gerald R. Ford.
An aircraft carrier may hold
as many as 40 different religious
services per week while at sea.
Each chaplain-led service is tailored
to the specific traditions of
the many faiths aboard the ship.
The ceremonial christening
of sea vessels in the United States
dates back to the launch of the
Constitution (Old Ironsides) in
In those days, a bottle of
fine Portuguese wine was broken
on a vessel's bowsprit.
To christen the Gerald R.
Ford, the President's daughter
Susan broke a bottle of Americanmade
sparkling wine on the ship's
"When USS Gerald R. Ford
joins the Navy's fleet in 2016, she
will reign as America's queen of
the sea for 50 years," said Newport
News Shipbuilding President Matt
Mulherin during its 2013 christening
"She will stand as a symbol
of sovereign U.S. territory wherever
she sails. She will represent
her namesake-a man who embodied
integrity, honor and courage."
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE,
Fla., — The four pillars of comprehensive
airman fitness are mental,
physical, social and spiritual.
How airmen strengthen each pillar
is their own decision, but one senior
noncommissioned officer thinks
a way to reinforce all of these concepts
is found at the top of each
American state’s highest point.
Most recently, Air Force
Chief Master Sgt. Dean Werner,
the emergency management program
manager for the Air Force
Civil Engineer Center, led a hike
Aug. 4-6, adding to his list of
“I led a group of 10 airmen
to the summit of Granite Peak,
Montana, which is considered the
most difficult of the 50 state highpoints
to conquer, except for
Mount Denali, Alaska,” Werner
The climb consisted of
tackling 28 miles in three days
while gaining more than 7,000 feet
“The purpose of the challenge
is to boost the mental, physical,
social and spiritual health of
our service members through
climbs of each American state’s
highest geographical point,”
Werner said. “Hikes and climbs
offer a chance to interact with
other airmen, expand one’s comfort
zone, and tackle a peak that often
looks too big to climb- just like big
life problems we each face from
time to time.”
Although the Forest Service
estimates only a 10 to 20 percent
success rate for this summit, six of
the 10 airmen in Werner’s team
made it to the top.
“Risk management was
definitely a large part of our success,
as there are many very dangerous
areas during the climb,” the
chief said. “We assessed the risks
as a team, and as four of our team
members realized their experience
level did not match the mountain
requirements, they made sound decisions
to … safely head back
down the mountain.
“Part of this challenge is to
push yourself past your comfort
level,” he continued, “and even
those who made the decision to
turn around definitely pushed
themselves past that level and still
gained valuable experience to push
a little further next time.”
The team had some close
calls with falling rocks and picking
the correct route on the final push
to the summit, but they all returned
safely to the trailhead with no injuries,
Trekking up mountains can
be tough, but the chief said he is
drawn to the sport specifically because
of the physical challenge it
“Between the elevation
gained, the limitedamount of oxygen and the risks involved,
mountains provide me with
what I use to cope with the other
challenges in my life,” said he explained.
“When you challenge
yourself with a difficulty you
enjoy, sometimes that makes other
difficulties less challenging. From
2011 to 2014, I went outside the
wire many times in Afghanistan
and have since struggled with how
that affected me. When I conquer
the challenge of a tough summit,
my faith tells me I was brought
there for a reason: to enjoy that
summit that was given to me in
When at the summit of a
mountain, Werner said he feels
there are more important things in
life than dwelling on difficulties.
Exhilaration and Appreciation
Werner said reaching the
summit of a big mountain gives
him a lot of satisfaction when he
looks down and sees what he went
through to get to the mountaintop.
Climbing a mountain like that is a
brutal workout, he added, but when
he reaches the top, he does not feel
fatigue or pain -- just exhilaration
This climb was not the first
time Werner has taken on a mountain.
He also has climbed Tanzania’s
Mount Kilimanjaro and
Aconcagua in Argentina.
“My first big mountain was
Mount Kilimanjaro, and I climbed
it while on leave from
Afghanistan,” Werner said. “Having
never climbed a mountain over
15,000 feet before, I didn’t know
how tough it would be, so I dedicated
lots of time to conditioning.
“My remote camp in
Afghanistan didn’t have any roads
or trails to run on, since our camp
was only 200 meters by 200 meters,”
he continued. “I did all of my
training on a treadmill, mostly running,
doing interval training, and
once each week setting it a max incline
of 15 percent and walking
with a backpack. I also did a lot of
weightlifting and pushups to prepare,
as I set a goal of doing 1,000
pushups during the five-day
Werner said he looks forward
to his next climb and that he
encourages airmen to try this activity
if they are looking for a challenge.
“Mountains, and especially
team climbs with fellow airmen,
give team members a great chance
for camaraderie and confidencebuilding,”
Werner said. “I would
like to see airmen take advantage
of this activity, as the healing powers
of the outdoors, and especially
mountains, are very beneficial.
After a climb, airmen will understand
that their climb gave them
something that other avenues of assistance
for life difficulties could
not have. Even if an airman without
those difficulties climbed with
this program, they will realize that
their adventure gave them a level
of personal growth and confidence
few other means could.”