NEWPORT NEWS, Va (NNS) -- Susan Ford Bales, USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) ship sponsor and daughter of former President Gerald R. Ford, visited with the ship’s crew during its post-shakedown availability at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, Jan. 17.
During Bales’ twentieth visit to the ship, she gave insight to the journey she has taken as the ship’s sponsor.
“It’s been an amazing experience. From going through all the stages of the keel laying, to the island landing, to the christening, and finally the commissioning, it’s an incredible experience that I will never forget,” said Bales.
Bales’ was accompanied by Greg Willard, the secretary and trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. Since her last visit, the ship has been underway, received its first advanced weapons elevator and had a change of command at the commanding and executive officer positions.
During her tour, she spent time in different work centers around the ship and addressed the Sailors who man the stations on the ship that bears her father’s name.
“In the twilight of his life, dad learned that the Navy decided to name CVN 78, the ‘USS Gerald R. Ford.’ Upon learning that news, as dad had done tens of thousands of times, he wrote a letter. That particular letter was very unique and was very personal. It was a letter from dad’s heart,” said Bales.
Bales describes the letter as her father’s heartfelt feelings towards the ship and the crew. She explained that the letter was her dad’s way of saying how humbled he was by each and every one of the Sailors who serve aboard this powerful warship.
President Gerald R. Ford’s letter reads, “In my life I’ve received countless honors, but none was greater than to wear the uniform as lieutenant commander the United States Navy. On an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, during World War II, I learned to respect and to rely on my comrades as if my life depended on them, because often it did. This is a great source of boundless pride and humility to know that an aircraft carrier bearing my name, forever connected, with the valor and patriotic excellence, the men and women of the United States Navy.”
Bales explained that Sailors that serve aboard Ford are the key to continuing her father’s legacy. She said that each Sailor is an ambassador and that each can do their part by learning more about her father and to tell his story.
“I can’t wait until she’s deployed. I think that will be a very exciting time for all of us. I look forward to her getting out of here and back out to sea,” said Bales.
Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years. Ford is currently undergoing its post-shakedown availability at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.