USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Commissioning Ceremony

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Welcome to Navy Live blog coverage of the July 22 commissioning of the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

Live video from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. (EST).

President Donald J. Trump will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Susan Ford Bales, Ford’s daughter, serves as the ship’s sponsor.

CVN-78 is the lead ship of the new Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carrier, the first new class in more than 40 years and will begin the phased replacement of Nimitz-class carriers when the ship is commissioned. The Ford class incorporates advances in technology such as a new reactor plant, propulsion system, electric plant, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), machinery control, Dual Band Radar and integrated warfare systems. Compared to Nimitz-class carriers, the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers have more than 23 new or modified systems.

Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford, Photo Courtesy of Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford, Photo Courtesy of Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum

USS Gerald R. Ford honors the 38th president of the United States and pays tribute to his lifetime of service in the Navy, in the U.S. government and to the nation. During World War II, Ford attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy, serving on the light carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26). Released from active duty in February 1946, Ford remained in the Naval Reserve until 1963. Ford was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1948, where he served until President Nixon tapped him to become Vice President in 1973. Ford became president in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and served in the country’s highest office from 1974-1977.


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USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Commissioning Ceremony

Modernizing the Navy’s Mine Hunting Platforms

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Looking out on the future of the Navy’s mine warfare programs the expeditionary community faces the critical challenge of determining the best way to modernize aging mine hunting platforms. It’s an important topic that I discussed at the Mine Warfare Association’s Fall Industry Day in Arlington, VA on November 17, 2016.

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Aug. 4, 2014) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Laser Hawks of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, Detachment 2, equipped with the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) conducts flight operations. Operated from the MH-60S helicopter, ALMDS provides rapid wide-area reconnaissance and assessment of mine threats in littoral zones, confined straits, and choke points. The Laser Hawks began the operational testing and demonstration of ALMDS in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility on the system’s maiden deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey/Released)
NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Aug. 4, 2014) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Laser Hawks of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, Detachment 2, equipped with the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) conducts flight operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey/Released)

While working in one of the Navy’s most complex warfare areas, we’re attempting to achieve a number of objectives concurrently:

  • Our primary air and surface platforms must be replaced with multi-mission platforms-in particular, littoral combat ships and the MH-60.
  • Our primary hunting, sweep and neutralization systems must be replaced with new technologies that will do the time consuming, dangerous, and dirty work.
  • We must continue to increase our clearance and confidence levels across our portfolio of mine countermeasures programs.

As the Navy plans to start retiring the remaining MCM-1 Avenger-class ships beginning in 2019, it is essential that during the transition we maintain at least the equivalent operational capability and capacity we have with legacy systems. Moving forward, we will continue to build our MCM capability to meet ever more challenging threats. The success of un-manned systems like the MK18 Mod 2 will ensure our Explosive Ordnance Disposal Sailors continue to maintain expeditionary MCM capability into the future. Moreover, the benefit of these un-manned systems extends well beyond N95 and MCM to other warfighting platforms and domains. We’re making progress toward building the future force, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

MARINETTE, Wisconsin (July 14, 2016) The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts acceptance trials. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote/Released)
MARINETTE, Wisconsin (July 14, 2016) The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts acceptance trials. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote/Released)

In the short term, we continue to make progress as we declared Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and the Airborne Mine Neutrilcation System (AMNS) for the MH-60S on November 18, 2016. These first production units will be delivered to the fleet, and ready for operational employment.

In 2017, we’ll test this capability package aboard our littoral combat ships to give our Sailors the opportunity to work the package in operational environments. This will help us validate our concept of operations and tactical integration – providing system feedback that will allow us to refine software and techniques that will reduce the time needed to conduct post-mission analysis and system upkeep.

Additionally, we’ll continue to diligently test other mine countermeasures systems, including an unmanned influence sweep system, surf and beach zone detection improvements, low-frequency broadband search for buried and high-clutter mine hunting, near-surface neutralization, and advances across the unmanned systems spectrum.

ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 2, 2016) From left to right, Machinist Mate 1st Class Micah Patterson, Boatswains Mate 1st Class Stephen Wodraska, Engineman 2nd Class Richard Meyer, Mineman 1st Class Coy Tully and Mineman 3rd Class Pete Calvert, assigned to Commander, Task Group 56.1, launch a MK 18 MOD 2 unmanned underwater vehicle from a rigid-hull inflatable boat during Squadex 2016.
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ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 2, 2016) From left to right, Machinist Mate 1st Class Micah Patterson, Boatswains Mate 1st Class Stephen Wodraska, Engineman 2nd Class Richard Meyer, Mineman 1st Class Coy Tully and Mineman 3rd Class Pete Calvert, assigned to Commander, Task Group 56.1, launch a MK 18 MOD 2 unmanned underwater vehicle from a rigid-hull inflatable boat during Squadex 2016. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Blake Midnight/Released)

The flexibility of our mine countermeasures mission package systems is one of our definitive strengths. Our current footprint provides overlapping capability as it’s composed of both legacy and new technologies. Above all, our future Navy mine warfare program will look to ensure that our systems will be ready when we need them, that they will be scaled to meet the mission, and can be swiftly moved to where they are needed when called upon.


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By The Honorable Dennis V. McGinn Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations & Environment) …

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Modernizing the Navy’s Mine Hunting Platforms

Navy Live

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By Vice Adm. Bill Moran
Chief of Naval Personnel

Vice Adm. William F. Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel, speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).

Vice Adm. William F. Moran, Chief of Naval
Personnel, speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call aboard USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).

Next week we will announce the names of about 20,000 Sailors selected for advancement to E-4 to E6. Sailors and COs routinely ask about the notification process –answers to two of the most frequent are below:

Q: Why not provide command triads the chance to notify those who did and didn’t advance, before publicly releasing the results?

A: In response to feedback from the fleet, we are going to make a change to the notification process. Many COs, XOs and CMCs tell us that by simply releasing the results on the web and via social media, they lose a valuable opportunity to counsel and mentor their Sailors–before they get the news from their Shipmates. An advance heads-up, that doesn’t slow down the notification process, allows time to reach out to congratulate and counsel as necessary.

Q: When can we expect to see the advancement results?

A: Typically, Navy tradition is to release E4-E6 advancement results prior to Memorial Day and Thanksgiving; however, the timing does not always work out.  We do try to meet these timelines and releasing the results via Navy social media helps expedite the process.

Given fleet feedback and consistent with efforts to continue to reinforce the roll and authority of command triads, the goal for advancement results release for this cycle will look like this:

-Monday, May 19 – Quotas released publicly

-Thursday, May 22 (morning Eastern Time) – Command triad notified via BOL of their command’s results.

-Friday, May 23 (morning Eastern Time) – Individual Sailor advancement notification on BOL, Navy Enlisted Advancement System (NEAS) and NKO.

-Friday, May 23 (approximately 1000 Eastern Time) – Public release via Navy social media, web and news sites.

Feedback will be important–let us know if this improves the process and how we can continue to meet the collective needs of our leadership and our Sailors.

Q: The designation, conversion, and advancement opportunities for Professional Apprenticeship Career Track (PACT) Sailors are lower than in the past–why is this and what advice can you offer?

A: First off, PACT Sailors are absolutely necessary to accomplishing the apprentice-level work required in the Fleet. Over the last two years we brought in a large number of these Sailors to help improve at-sea manning levels to reduce gaps at sea.

Engineman 3rd Class Malcolm Price, center, assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1), is pinned by his mentors Gunner's Mate 1st Class Michael Davis, left, and Engineman 2nd Class Miguel Cantu during a frocking ceremony.

Engineman 3rd Class Malcolm Price, center, assigned to USS Freedom (LCS 1), is pinned by his mentors Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Michael Davis, left, and Engineman 2nd Class Miguel Cantu during a frocking ceremony.

As a result of these manning shortfalls, we were able to designate PACT Sailors in an expedited time frame, well below the 24-months onboard guarantee. We now recognize that this may have created an unrealistic and unsustainable expectation.

In our efforts to stabilize communities and ratings, and to avoid unpredictable and unwelcomed advancement rate swings (the ones we all recognize as unproductive–100% for several cycles and then single digits for years to follow), we have reduced the immediate reliance on our PACT inventory to quickly fill rated apprentice-level gaps.

Feedback is clear, this progress may be viewed as double-edged. Many view “stability” as helpful and needed, but to those who signed up with the understanding and expectation that they would quickly and easily convert, this “stability” has slowed down what appeared to be an expedited conversion timeline.

PACT Sailors should still anticipate being on track for designation by 24 months at their initial duty station (and probably not much earlier) but should be encouraged to start the conversation process as soon as possible.

Continued command and unit level leadership mentoring will help set expectations and prepare Sailors to achieve transition goals–encouraging Sailors to utilize Command Career Counselors, Career Development Boards and the Career Exploration Module within the Career Waypoints system, https://careerwaypoints.sscno.nmci.navy.mil.

Additionally, PACT Sailors should be familiar with the Job Opportunities In the Navy (JOIN) interest battery, https://join.sscno.nmci.navy.mil, to aid in job identification and subsequent designation into communities that best fit with their abilities and interests.

These resources along with continued mentoring and guidance from the chain of command will help to ensure our Sailors are aware of their options and the steps required to optimize their opportunities (e.g. retake the Armed Forces Classification Test (AFCT) to improve their scores and/or earn a driver’s license). In most cases, transition success is influenced at the unit level–by the leaders who know these Sailors best.

Fleet Beldo and I leave this weekend to meet with Sailors and their families in Japan and Hawaii–in fact we will be there during the advancement notifications. Please keep the feedback and suggestions coming on these and other issues of interest.

See you around the Fleet.
CNP

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