Mutts with a Mission deploys with USS Gerald R. Ford
10 May 2023
NORFOLK, Va. --
Sage, a three-year-old female yellow Labrador Retriever, deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, May 2, as part of the Expanded Operational Stress Control Canine pilot program.
Sage is part of Gerald R. Ford's warfighter toughness mental health and resiliency team, and she is specifically trained to help Sailors cope with the operational stress associated with deployment. The intent is for Sage to provide a unique outlet and comfort for Sailors during deployment. Animals are proven to be another form of stress relief and provide a sense of companionship.
Mutts with a Mission, a Virginia-based non-profit organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International, raised and trained Sage, and loaned her to the Gerald R. Ford crew for the ship’s scheduled deployment. Gerald R. Ford will be the first U.S. Navy ship to have an expanded operational stress control (EOSC) canine as part of the crew throughout deployment, and this will serve as an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of the program.
Chaplain Genevieve Clark, Gerald R. Ford and Carrier Strike Group 12’s Chaplain, serves as Sage’s primary handler. In preparation to deploy with Sage, Clark completed 120 hours of handler training with Mutts with a Mission. Three other volunteer handlers aboard Ford also support Clark in Sage's care and mission.
“One of the positives of having Sage aboard the ship is her help in breaking down some barriers to utilizing mental, emotional, and spiritual resiliency resources,” said Clark. “Sailors are coming to more warrior toughness events and improving their morale through the vast network of resiliency resources the ship offers with Sage now present at these opportunities.”
During deployment, all Sailors will benefit from spending time with Sage, who will be present with Chaplains, Resiliency Providers, and Mental Health professionals thereby having the opportunity to receive counseling sessions. Sage will be available to Sailors during ship-wide Morale, Welfare, and Recreation events. Her daily schedule will also be made available to Sailors for general visitation and morale boosts throughout the day.
Mutts with a Mission sent Sage with all necessary supplies for deployment, including a waste collection mat, proper bedding located in the handler’s stateroom, personal protective gear including paw, hearing, and eye protection, and a life vest.
“The Sailors of Gerald R. Ford are excited to welcome Sage to the ship. Mutts with a Mission provides an invaluable service to Sailors, one that will aid in stress relief during the ship’s deployment,” said Capt. Rick Burgess, Ford’s commanding officer. “Sage is one of the many resources aboard the ship to help Sailors build resiliency and enhance morale.”
The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (GRFCSG) is conducting a scheduled deployment in the Atlantic Ocean in support of interoperability and maritime security. The GRFCSG provides an inherently flexible naval force capable of deploying across combatant commands to meet emerging missions, deter potential adversaries, reassure allies and partners, enhance security and guarantee the free flow of global commerce. In total, the GRFCSG is deployed with more than 6,000 Sailors across all platforms ready to respond globally to combatant commander tasking.
Gerald R. Ford is the U.S. Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier. As the first-in-class ship of Ford-class aircraft carriers, CVN 78 represents a generational leap in the U.S. Navy’s capacity to project power on a global scale. Ford-class aircraft carriers introduce 23 new technologies, including Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, Advanced Arresting Gear and Advanced Weapons Elevators. The new systems incorporated onto Ford-class ships are designed to deliver greater lethality, survivability and joint interoperability with a 20% smaller crew than a Nimitz-class carrier, paving the way forward for naval aviation.
For more information about the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit https://www.airlant.usff.navy.mil/cvn78/ and follow along on Facebook: @USSGeraldRFord, Instagram: @cvn78_grford, Twitter: @Warship_78, DVIDS www.dvids.net/CVN78 and LinkedIn at USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).