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USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) conducted a successful replenishment-at-sea (RAS) Feb. 8 marking the ship’s first time receiving fuel from a replenishment ship in more than 24 months.
Ford successfully received more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel, and exercised a solid cargo station, transferring 22 pallets for training from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO 195), in less than three hours.
The RAS started off with Ford pulling alongside Grumman. A few moments later, a line was shot from Ford to Grumman to establish communications and connect to the fuel lines. Once completed, the fuel lines were pulled to Ford to begin the fueling process.
“A RAS is what drives and enhances our mission capabilities,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) Joshua Faulds, from Port Washington, Wisconsin, assigned to Ford’s V-4 division. “The primary mission of an aircraft carrier is to fly aircraft, and we need to be able to replenish the jet fuel without having to pull in port.”
During a RAS, Ford’s V-4 division, responsible for the safe handling of all jet propulsion (JP-5) fuel aboard, stations more than 60 personnel throughout the ship to monitor and handle the onload of fuel.
“The entire evolution is a well-orchestrated effort,” said Faulds. “If one station or group of Sailors isn’t on top of their game things can go very wrong because the risk is high. The Sailors in our division are mostly new to the ship but they performed very well and the evolution’s success is a testament to the training and qualification process onboard.”
Faulds also attributed the success of the evolution to Ford’s increased automation and systems integration. The ship’s systems help control and monitor events throughout the ship including safety sensors, auxiliary systems, and JP-5 fuel sensing and management.
“The system aboard Ford is wonderful because it helps make things much more efficient,” said Faulds. “The benefits of having one central interface and be able to track everything in such a user friendly way is great for our management and other departments around the ship.”
One group heavily involved in the evolution that doesn’t have a need for the electronic system is Ford’s deck department. The more than 80 personnel on station to uphold the lines connecting the ships and maintaining stability of fueling probes are dependent upon training, teamwork and proficiency to ensure safety.
“The professionalism and flawless execution by the team was incredible,” said Chief Warrant Officer Steven Sturm, Ford’s Ship’s Boatswain. “I think they exceeded expectations and we couldn’t be happier with how the evolution went.”
Planning, execution and crew capability are a few factors to consider when conducting a RAS. The preparation before the RAS is just as important as the execution.
“This is one of the most dangerous evolutions the crew will participate in,” said Faulds. “Coordination, training, and teamwork are key to a successful RAS. If the fuel system alignment is off, fuel could potentially go into spaces that it’s not intended to. This is why we train like we fight.”
The evolution allowed Ford Sailors to practice their skills and train junior Sailors on the ins and outs of a RAS.
“About 75 percent or more of my department has never conducted a RAS or seen that much fuel onloaded at one time,” said Sturm. “We train and conduct walkthroughs when we know we have a RAS coming up. Completing this evolution increased their confidence and it increased ours as well.”
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 underway conducting an independent steaming event in the Atlantic Ocean.
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