Ford sailors get the feel of deployment aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

An all-volunteer group of 61 sailors from the U.S. Navy’s future aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) joined the crew of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) who have spent five months supporting operation Inherent Resolve.

The Ford sailors, who have spent their entire tour at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, deployed with Ike to learn from the ship’s experienced crew and bring new expertise to their own command before the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier gets underway.

“We have a lot of experienced leadership on Ford, but we need experience at the deckplate level as well,” said Chief Petty Officer Justin Darnell, whose job aboard Ford consists of working with aviation ordnance. “This is an opportunity to get on-the-job experience, and develop a good understanding of their occupation and share it amongst their peers. It’s an opportunity they don’t have in the shipyard.”

For many Ford sailors, this was their first time to witness a fully-operational carrier at work, and see how their occupation plays into the overall mission.

“This has been a great opportunity to become familiar with the operational methodology of an active carrier, since many of us have no previous experience on carriers, or even a ship at sea,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Francisco Quezada. “We can see how all of the pieces of the AIMD (Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department) puzzle come together, how it fits into the overall mission, then bring that back to Ford.”

With a price tag of $12.9 billion, USS Gerald R. Ford is the most expensive ship in the Navy’s fleet and is expected to join the navy in 2017.

Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was ordered from Newport News Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries, on Sept. 10, 2008.

The 1,100 foot (335 meter) ship displaces 100,000 tonnes and is designed to operate effectively with nearly 700 fewer crew members than a CVN 68-class ship. Improvements in the ship design will, according to the Navy, allow the embarked air wing to operate with approximately 400 fewer personnel.