NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – After years in the making, the Navy will officially commission its newest aircraft carrier Saturday. President Donald Trump will preside over the ceremony aboard the Gerald R. Ford.
Before he passed away, President Ford learned a carrier would be named after him. He was astounded, said his daughter Susan Ford Bales, who was aboard the ship Wednesday.
The $12.9 billion nuclear-powered aircraft carrier took more than eight years to build. Bales, the ship’s sponsor, was there every step of the way.
“I’m glad that it’s finally almost here. It’s been a long haul, but we got it right and things have been fixed that we had issues with, and so I’ll be glad to get her commissioned and get her in the fleet and get her out there,” she said.
All 2,600 sailors who will serve aboard the Ford have gone through a program teaching them about President Ford’s life and his own Navy service in World War II, depicted in the ship’s Tribute Room.
“President Ford getting this namesake means a lot more than just his presidency, but it means more to us I think more because of his sailor background and his experiences onboard that have shared many with us,” said PO1 Jeremy Stoecklein, who has researched the history.
Bales said the placement of items related to her father’s life is intentional, to help sailors identify with him.
“There’s pictures of him in the gym playing golf, swimming, doing athletic things,” Bales said.
On display in the Commanding Officer’s cabin — the flag from President Ford’s funeral.
Bales said that her father would have this advice for the crew: “Honor your country and have integrity. You know, let’s remember, the motto is ‘Integrity at the Helm,’ and I think that’s what he would want them to do.”
President Donald Trump, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe are among those expected to attend the commissioning.