Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Fletcher (left), an aviation electronics technician, gives a tour of USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) aviation intermediate maintenance department to AIR 6.7 employees during a tour of the ship. (Elements of this photo have been blurred for security purposes.) (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — After touring the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier—USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)—24 Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) logisticians from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, have a better understanding of the role they play in producing Naval Aviation readiness.

“The day-to-day activities of AIR 6.7 are in direct support of the fleet, but many civilians have never been on a ship,” Industrial and Logistics Maintenance Planning/Sustainment Department (AIR 6.7) Military Director Capt. Bryant Hepstall said.

“Not everyone can comprehend the maintainer’s operational environment without seeing it firsthand,” he explained. “The one-day trip to see the ship at its homeport (Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia) was an opportunity for our logisticians to talk with their customers face-to-face. I wanted them to see from a Sailor and Marine perspective how our products impact their ability to perform Naval Aviation’s mission.”

Commissioned July 2017, USS Gerald R. Ford is the first U.S. aircraft carrier in its class. The ship’s new design—the first in 40 years—includes advanced weapons systems as well as the capacity to support a larger complement of aircraft than older Nimitz-class carriers. The new configuration also enables the ship to operate with fewer Sailors.

For Ronald Klasmeyer, Engineering Technical Services Policy Branch, the visit to Ford was his first to an aircraft carrier. He said feedback from the crew detailing how well NAVAIR products work resonated with him.

“To properly design systems, we need to keep in mind what is and is not possible aboard a carrier,” he said. “Sizes, voltages, bandwidths and storage space all need to be factored in advance.”

Ford’s size and complexity impressed AIR 6.7 Management Analyst Melvina Thompson. “This was my first time aboard a carrier,” she said. “As I looked at how tall the ship stood at the pier, my first impression was, ‘Wow!’ It was all quite new and I was amazed by what it takes to bring this capability to realization—from how long it takes to build, to how large the flight deck is, to the ship’s intricate technology.”

Thompson said seeing Ford’s Sailors in their work environment will serve as a reminder throughout her career that the fleet depends on what she produces.

Environmental Logistics Section Environmental Engineer Erin Beck, whose visit to the Ford was her second one to an aircraft carrier in her 19-year career, said her discussion with Sailors also made her rethink how much her decisions impact the fleet.

“My job primarily pertains to hazardous materials management for aviation programs. For me, the tour reinforced the need to balance what types of materials are fielded to the fleet,” she said. “Meeting the Sailors who perform maintenance and seeing their spaces on the ship inspires me to work even more diligently to reduce the consumable hazardous materials footprint required to support an aircraft. As massive as the ship is, space gets tight quickly.”

Klasmeyer also said the visit reinforced the need to be forward thinking before fielding products to the fleet. “I have better insight as to what is possible and the potential limitations of future systems we provide to Navy and Marine Corps maintainers,” Klasmeyer said.

Lt. Cmdr. Rodney King (right), USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) aircraft handling officer, explains flight deck aircraft operations in the flight deck control office to AIR 6.7 employees. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Troutman, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

“Never pass up an opportunity to visit a ship, a fleet readiness center or anywhere your products are being used,” Beck said. “Seeing how the fleet operates is critical to understanding why you are doing your job at [Naval Air Station] Patuxent River. I believe if you know why you are doing your job, you’ll naturally do it more effectively and with sense of urgency.”

“Experience it for yourself at least once,” Thompson said.  “It is beyond what words, pictures and videos can convey.”