PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- When USS George Washington (CVN 73) pulled away from the pier at Naval Air Station North Island, in San Diego, Sept. 8, she took 42 Sailors from Pre-commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) with her.
Many of those Sailors volunteered for the opportunity; a chance to train in qualifications only available underway.
"I was at the Huntington Hall quarterdeck when I received a text message asking for names to go out with Washington. I immediately volunteered," said Airman Apprentice Ryan Norman. "I came out to get my warfare and in-rate qualifications, to further my career. The qualifications I've earned so far will help me assist our ship in setting up programs and training people."
Ford is the first of its class. The future aircraft carrier is designed with fully-electric utilities, thereby eliminating steam service lines from the ship, reducing maintenance requirements and improving corrosion control.
"We have an array of qualifications we came out to achieve," said Senior Chief Aviation Electrician's Mate Robert Mendoza, the Ford detachment's leading chief petty officer. "It's one thing to be taught in a classroom, but when you have actually worked with the equipment, it provides real time experience."
The 10 Sailors that make up Air Department's V-1 detachment have already earned three Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist (EAWS) and one Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) qualifications.
"More of us are waiting for boards on our qualifications," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Dylan Tiefert, referring to the oral test Sailors have to pass to earn a designation.
Other Sailors, assigned to Deck, Media, Intelligence, Air, Operations and the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD), are 80 percent qualified in-rate, with 38 enrolled in warfare programs.
"We have Ford Sailors [serving] as day-check supervisors, night-check supervisors, and first class petty officers in leadership positions here in Weapon's G-3 division," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Shawn Locklear. "Our guys are stepping into leadership roles."
Junior Sailors like Norman are earning certifications which are vital to Ford's commissioning in 2016.
"He's ordnance certified, which is a huge deal for us. You can't touch ordnance unless you're team-member qualified," said Locklear. "He can take all this knowledge back and train the junior guys on Ford. Ford's G-3 division has about 150 Sailors now, most of them airman and below who've never touched a bomb and are not qualified. Norman, one of their peers, could easily give them training. He's seen the bombs, qualified and knows the hands-on side of the rate on an operational carrier."
Ford Sailors even used GW's first port call in Lima, Peru, to gain valuable insight as to duty and watchstanding requirements in a foreign port.
"Through that hands-on experience of standing duty in a place like Peru, we understand what we need to have in place back on the Ford," said Mendoza. "It teaches us how many watches we should be standing up in port, and what we need for a successful operational duty section."
The Sailors' experience while aboard Washington is two-fold in contributing to the mission of both Washington and Ford.
"We're upholding the Ford and representing it the best we can," said Locklear. "We're ready to come back [with] our experiences and qualifications, and help Ford meet the mission of building the command we've always wanted."
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.