The pre-commissioning unit (PCU) for the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) marked another milestone in the lead up to the commissioning of the second Ford Class aircraft carrier, as Reactor Department Sailors began to operate on board the ship this week.
Captain Todd Marzano, PCU John F. Kennedy’s commanding officer, praised the efforts of his crew and the shipbuilder in moving Sailors on board the aircraft carrier three months ahead of schedule.
"The significance of this milestone moment is that Sailors are beginning to operate on board three months ahead of schedule. We are putting a new generation of warfighters on the newest warfighting ship, enhancing our readiness with the best-in-class talent," CAPT Marzano explained.
He explained there will be challenges ahead for the first Sailors moving on board the second Ford Class aircraft carrier, but that his team is ready.
"The spaces look great, and I definitely appreciate the hard work from Newport News Shipbuilding and all those involved in making this big event possible," CAPT Marzano added.
"Working aboard the ship in our permanent spaces is a huge team-win, and enables us to begin the process of taking ownership of our equipment, systems and compartments, which brings us another important step closer to delivering JFK to the fleet."
The new technology and warfighting capabilities that John F. Kennedy will bring to the fleet will transform naval warfare, supporting a more capable and lethal forward-deployed US naval presence.
In an era of great power competition, the John F. Kennedy will serve as the most agile and lethal combat platform in the world, with improved systems that enhance interoperability among other platforms in the carrier strike group as well as with the naval forces of regional allies and partners.
Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Gerrit Assink explained the significance of moving aboard, saying, "We are moving out of our temporary offices and training spaces to work on board the ship. This is significant because it allows the Reactor Department to settle into the day-to-day routine."
The Sailors will begin working on board John F. Kennedy where they will continue their training and certification process. Assink discussed how much Sailors benefit from performing day-to-day evolutions within their work spaces, as they prepare to operate the equipment on board.
The milestone recognises the first Sailors to take ownership of newly completed ship spaces – one of many construction milestones that await the crew of the John F. Kennedy.
Reactor Department Leading Petty Officer, Machinist’s Mate 1st Class William Whitley is excited to experience the ship firsthand, as he and his team pave the way for the rest of the crew to begin their migration on board.
"Things are moving fast. It’s exciting to see our team be the first in the fight, the first to take ownership," he explained.
The John F. Kennedy has been under construction at its Newport News location since 2015 and is the second aircraft carrier to honour former president John F. Kennedy for his service to the nation, both as a naval officer and as the 35th president of the US.