NEWPORT NEWS (NNS) -- President Donald J. Trump addressed Sailors from Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and shipbuilders from Huntington Ingalls Newport News during a visit to the first-in-class aircraft carrier March 2.
"This carrier and the new ships in the Ford class will expand the ability of our nation to carry out vital missions on the oceans and to project American power in distant lands," Trump said to an audience of over 3.500.
The president landed on the flight deck on Marine One accompanied by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. They were welcomed aboard Ford by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Capt. Richard McCormack, Ford's commanding officer.
"It was an honor to welcome aboard our commander-in-chief," said McCormack. "My Sailors have put tremendous work and energy into making Ford an operational asset to the fleet, and I could not be more proud to have him here to see this team." Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and the ship's sponsor, who greeted Trump on the flight deck and welcomed him into the captain's inport cabin, where he met with Ford Sailors and shipbuilders for a roundtable discussion. Following a brief tour of crew habitability spaces and unique technology, Trump descended to the Ford's hangar bay via an aircraft elevator for an "All Hands Call" with Ford Sailors and shipbuilders.
The presidential visit marked a week full of "firsts". It was Trump's first visit to an aircraft carrier, and the first time the aircraft carrier, named in honor of the 38th president, Gerald R. Ford, had ever received a president. Earlier that week, an MV-22 Osprey marked a critical milestone in the life of the ship by becoming the first aircraft to land on Ford's flight deck, making Ford the only ship to receive an aircraft before its commissioning, while in the shipyard.
"It was a great opportunity to be a part of the ship's history," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate [Handling] 3rd Class Marcus Arduini, an air department Sailor from Houston. Arduini has the distinction of being Ford's first tower supervisor, and helped assist Ford's air Boss in ensuring a safe aircraft recovery. "It's just been a great experience to see everything finally come together." Sailors expressed their pride in being able to show their ship to the President and senior military leaders.
"It's an exciting experience to get the ship prepared," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Frederick Cobbin, a communications specialist from Charleston, South Carolina, assigned to Ford's combat systems department. "I got here in 2014, when everything was pretty much bare metal - it's amazing how far we've come."