USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) conducted a conventional ammunition on-load, April 9, in support of workups and training for an upcoming deployment. Ford successfully on-loaded approximately 541,000 pounds of ordnance using both connected transfers and vertical lifts from the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12).
More than 400 sailors from Ford’s weapons, deck and aircraft intermediate maintenance departments participated in the event, collecting more than 200 pallets from the flight deck and hangar bay then transporting them to multiple advanced weapons elevators to be stored in the ship’s magazines.
“All weapons divisions were involved with the evolution and personnel worked from the magazines to the flight deck to ensure everything was safe and efficient,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Joshua Hitcho, from New Zionsville, Pennsylvania, assigned to Ford’s weapons department. “The whole evolution went smoothly. It was impressive to watch, and I am proud to be part of the team that made it happen.”
The on-load started with Ford pulling alongside William McLean and shooting lines over to establish communications and connect distance lines. Once attached, MH-60S helicopters attached to the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 9, began to lift ammunition over to Ford’s flight deck and pallets of ammunition were transferred via connected replenishment.
“We on-loaded both live and training ammunitions to help support Carrier Air Wing 8 and our security forces on board for this underway,” said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Castillo, from San Diego, Ford’s Ordnance Handling Officer. “Every carrier needs ammunition to complete the mission. There is nothing we can’t do when we have a fully loaded ship.”
The ammunition from this on-load is essential for arming aircraft with live ordnance during carrier qualifications and carrier strike group integration.
“It feels good because we get to show what weapons department really does. We spent a lot of time and hard work to get to this point and it payed off,” said Hitcho. “Getting the entire department together as a group was great, everybody was excited and ready to go. Everybody was in the right place at the right time, it was a small part of a bigger picture.”
Onloading ammunition while underway is critical to Ford’s ability to supply the embarked air wing with ordnance needed to conduct its missions. This successful evolution will bring Ford one step closer to deployment readiness.
“I could not be prouder of our sailors. The whole department doing what we were meant to do was the pinnacle of my time here,” said Castillo. “This on-load is a big piece of the puzzle for our ship to do what carriers were meant to do.”