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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) conducts annual namesake visit in Michigan

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Guth, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
10 September 2022

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Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Phillip Jean-Gilles, from Miami, USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) executive assistant to the command master chief, places a rose during a wreath laying ceremony in honor of former President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, September 1, 2022. Twelve Ford Sailors traveled to Michigan for the ship’s annual namesake visit to learn about the legacy of President Gerald R. Ford and connect with local community members in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Albion, Michigan. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zack Guth)
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220901-N-DN657-1051
Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Phillip Jean-Gilles, from Miami, USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) executive assistant to the command master chief, places a rose during a wreath laying ceremony in honor of former President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, September 1, 2022. Twelve Ford Sailors traveled to Michigan for the ship’s annual namesake visit to learn about the legacy of President Gerald R. Ford and connect with local community members in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Albion, Michigan. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zack Guth)
Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Guth
VIRIN: 220901-N-DN657-1051
NORFOLK, Va. - Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) visited Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Albion, Michigan to honor the legacy of the ship’s namesake, the late President Gerald R. Ford, and connect with local community members, August 31 to September 4, 2022.

During the five-day namesake visit, 12 Sailors from CVN 78 spent time with members of the Ford Family and Ford Foundation, built relationships with members of the local communities and explored locations that were significant to Gerald R. Ford’s life and career.

The 12 Sailors flew into Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 31 and held a dinner that night with two of President Ford’s nephews, Bob and Greg Ford, discussing “Uncle Jerry” stories and how much it meant to President Ford that the Navy’s next generation of aircraft carriers was named after him.

“You don’t know how much this namesake visit means to me, our family and our community,” said Greg Ford, nephew of President Ford. “‘Integrity at the Helm’ is a perfect descriptor of what Uncle Jerry was all about. To see you folks (on the ship) and know that you’re there representing Integrity at the Helm means a lot to us. It means a lot to the entire Ford Family. We really appreciate everything that you do.”

On September 1, the Sailors held a wreath laying ceremony at the tomb of Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford, placing 12 roses on a wreath and floral arrangement at the tomb. A few Sailors spoke with local television and radio news outlets about the significance of the event.

"We came out here as a namesake tour to learn more about President Ford as well as his ventures up in Michigan,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Esteban Reyes during an on-camera interview.

Following the wreath laying ceremony, the group of Ford Sailors visited the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, which houses materials and documents that represent the life of Gerald R. Ford. Inside, Sailors viewed items from Ford’s youth, his time as a boy scout, his naval, congressional and presidential career, and a scale model of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

That afternoon, the Sailors visited Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, a women-founded rehabilitation hospital with roots dating back to 1891. Mary Free Bed named its cancer rehabilitation program after First Lady Betty Ford to pay tribute to her efforts toward normalizing the conversation around breast cancer. Betty Ford was “the first prominent woman to speak openly about breast cancer,” paving the way forward for women with breast cancer and saving women’s lives around the world, according to a representative of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Additionally, she was a founding member of the guild that governs the hospital.

After the Sailors toured Mary Free Bed’s facility, they spent two hours with a group of veterans receiving care at the hospital. There were veterans from each branch of military service at the meet and greet. During the engagement, Cmdr. Richard Rosenbusch, Ford’s assistant air officer, personally handed a USS Gerald. R. Ford command ballcap to each veteran who attended. A few of the veterans had tears in the eyes when they received their ballcap.

“Those veterans were so touched by your visit,” said Donna Calvaruso, member of the President Gerald R. Ford Historical Legacy Trust. “You impacted them. You really did.”

The evening of September 1, the 12 Sailors visited the DeVos Family Center for Scouting, Adventure Point, to spend an afternoon with local Scouts and participate in rock climbing.

On September 2, the Sailors traveled to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where they visited the “Big House” football stadium, spoke with several members and leaders of the Naval Officer Reserve Training Corps program and observed the hydrodynamic and marine engineering tow tank on campus.

While in Ann Arbor, the Sailors also visited the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, which holds more than 25 million pages of documents and photos from Ford’s life. There, the Sailors viewed Ford’s personal office, many letters addressed to him and Betty Ford and a close-up view of specific documents from his naval, congressional and presidential career, including his application to the naval reserve, as well as photo reels and a video documenting his speech at the USS Nimitz (CVN 65) commissioning ceremony on May 13, 1972.

Later that evening, the Sailors visited the Albion College Ford Institute for Leadership to participate in a panel and speak with students, veterans, civic leaders and members of the Albion community.

“I have never been on a ship that understands and has so much pride in their namesake as we do on the USS Gerald R. Ford,” said Cmdr. Rosenbusch during his opening remarks at the Albion College panel.

On September 3, the Sailors attended an Albion College Football game against Carthage College from Kenosha, Wisconsin where they interacted with the Albion community and Carthage College family members. During the halftime show, the Ford Sailors were recognized on the field and introduced to all attendees of the football game by Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Ford, in a recorded voice message played on the stadium speakers.

“I am particularly happy to welcome the crew members from dad’s namesake aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN 78,” said Ford Bales in a recorded message played on Albion College’s field. “Crew members, dad would be most proud to welcome you to Michigan. I am acutely aware that you and the USS Gerald R. Ford are about to be deployed into harm’s way. I know that everyone gathered today joins me in wishing you fair winds and following seas.”

The 12 Ford Sailors who attended the annual namesake visit were:
• Cmdr. Richard Rosenbusch, from New Baltimore, Michigan
• Lt. Ian Loomis, from Ottumwa, Iowa
• Ensign Paula Niederland, from Englewood, New Jersey
• Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Phillip Jean-Gilles, from Miami
• Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Cheryl Ehrenfeld, from Livonia, Michigan
• Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Frank Weyer, from Jonesville, Michigan
• Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Bowen Kincaid, from Battle Creek, Michigan,
• Fire Controlman 2nd Class Tyler Westbrook, from Port Huron, Michigan
• Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Esteban Reyes, from Toledo, Ohio
• Air Traffic Controller Airman Kyle Kurth, from St. Joseph, Michigan
• Retail Service Specialist Kasey Wetters, from Birmingham, Michigan

USS Gerald R. Ford, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, is conducting workups for the ship’s first scheduled deployment this fall.


 
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