VA, UNITED STATES
ATLANTIC OCEAN – When Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 flew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) on May 28, it marked the ship’s largest aircraft embark to date. It also marked a surge in the number of personnel on board this first-in-class carrier-the first new carrier design in more than 40 years. The operation also tested a new approach to feeding the nearly 4,000-strong force, using a breakthrough concept in food preparation and service called conglomerate galleys.
Ford’s conglomerate galleys are based on a similar design used aboard the Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD) San Antonio (LPD-17)-class ships that has been employed quite successfully. Ford-class aircraft carriers operate only two galleys, compared to the five galleys on board Nimitz (CVN 68)-class carriers. To feed the crew and to support CVW-8, the Ford’s supply department and food service division had to develop Standard Operating Procedures for operating both conglomerate galleys, simultaneously.
One centralized galley aft serves meals to the crew, chiefs, and officers from three adjacent sides; and the forward galley serves officers on one side and air crew on the other. The forward galley is only manned when the air wing is on board, as their additional Culinary Specialist’ are required for proper manning. Serving multiple lines from one galley ensures consistency throughout the meal, because all of the meal products are coming from the same source and the same cooks. It also elevates the quality of meals for the entire crew and discourages special meals for different messes.
Both galleys are positioned along the ship’s centerline and are supported with pallet-capable elevators located over palletized frozen, chill, and dry storerooms. This vertical integration, with store rooms directly beneath the galley, allows the food service cargo team to easily breakout, frozen, chill, and dry stores with a relatively small team. Vertical integration also dramatically decreases the need for large 50- to 100-man working parties to support cargo movements, which allows the food service division to operate without disrupting the ships daily operations.
In addition to the unique design of Ford’s galleys, the food preparation spaces are also equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and new tools to make serving more efficient. With options similar to the popular instant pot menu selection-just 1,000 times more powerful-Rationale Combination Ovens are installed that allow for a more efficient way to serve fast-moving items. These ovens are equipped with a product menu display containing product recognition options that cook just by the push of a button representing the food item.
Rational Combination Ovens also feature Wi-Fi linking and monitoring capability and are completely self-cleaning. During the self-cleaning cycle, the oven turns into a dishwasher and thoroughly cleans itself. Seriously, Sailors can push a button and walk away-the oven sprays soapy water, enters a cleaning cycle, rinses itself out, and turns off when complete. The cooks do not have to worry about any toxic chemical compounds or sprays to remove cooked on food because of the oven’s self-cleaning function. No more will you see Sailors scraping cooked on food, scrubbing with steel wool and digging out hard to reach corners or boiling oven racks in kettles; they’ll just push a button for clean ovens. This definitely becomes useful when using the ovens for grilling steak, which drains off a lot of grease; or should food spill inside the oven.
The conglomerate galley’s unique design, layout, and new equipment enable more efficient galley operations, which means fewer personnel needed to support the operation over all. Ford has far fewer Food Service Attendants (FSAs) than Nimitz-class ships, requiring fewer personnel temporarily assigned to supply, allowing Sailors to work in their designated divisions. Overall, Ford’s S2 cargo division is roughly 30 Sailors compared to more than 80 on board Nimitz-class carriers, and Ford’s food service division has at least 90 fewer Sailors than the Nimitz-class, but feeds the same sized air wing.
With the embark of CVW-8, Ford commenced overlapping meal hours from both galleys, requiring some strategic consideration to properly manage skill sets and leadership roles in the distribution of Culinary Specialist. Yes, you can have too many cooks in one kitchen.
As Ford develops and tests operating procedures, food services leadership incorporated a diverse mix of shipboard culinary talent with air wing culinary talent to balance the food service operation throughout the ship. This allowed air wing Culinary Specialist and their FSAs the opportunity to gain a greater level of knowledge about ship operations, as Ford incorporated them in all galley operations.
To support the forward galley operation, CVW-8 provided 16 junior Culinary Specialist and 54 FSAs. Ship’s company Culinary Specialists were responsible for training the air wing to meet the demanding schedule of feeding nearly 1,000 air wing personnel. Their training consisted of recipe conversions, time management, proper labeling of food, trash separation, and the ever popular man-overboard mustering while aboard.
CVN 78 is currently in the midst of an 18-month Post Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T) period, during which the crew exercises the flight deck and tests on-board combat systems, always improving upon the construction and ship trial process for follow-on carriers in the class.
Throughout PDT&T, the ship logs many milestones associated with testing Ford’s 23 new technologies. While underway, CVW-8 conducted day and night cyclic flight operations totaling 324 catapult launches and arrested landings, qualifying 50 pilots. To date, Ford has conducted 3,480 catapult launches and arrested landings. In addition, during this execution of cyclic flight operations with CVW-8, Ford moved thousands of pounds of inert ordnance via Advanced Weapons Elevators to F/A-18 Super Hornets, employed during Close Air Support and air-to-ground training missions. Executing cyclic operations and arming aircraft with bombs from the ship’s magazines were firsts for the team.
While often overlooked and, perhaps, underappreciated, the care and feeding of a ship’s crew and embarked air wing is a critical, mission essential task supporting all aspects of a ship’s operation. Ford’s conglomerate galleys not only get the job done, but the Sailors entrusted with their operation do the task faster, with cooler tools, and with fewer people than ever before across the Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers.