A Miami native and 2009 Miami Senior High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the service’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford.
Airman Apprentice Orlan Garcamo is serving aboard the carrier homeported in Norfolk, VA. As a Navy airman, Garcamo is responsible for coordinating planes and being able to maneuver them around the hanger bay, and making sure they have proper equipment to handle casualties with the aircraft.
Garcamo credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Miami.
“I learned about discipline and taking responsibility for your own mistakes,” Garcamo said. “Owning up to your mistakes will get your farther than pointing fingers.”
Commissioned in 2017, Ford, or ‘Warship 78’ as she is known by the crew, is 1,106 feet long — longer than three football fields.
The ship, a true floating city, weighs more than 100,000 tons and has a flight deck that is 256 feet wide.
Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship. The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft.
Ford is the first of a class of aircraft carriers that offer significant performance improvements over the previous Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The ship is equipped with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) to launch aircraft, rather than steam catapults currently used aboard other aircraft carriers, eliminating the requirement to generate and store steam for catapults, which frees up space. EMALS and other new systems and operating concepts will allow the Ford to accomplish 25 percent more aircraft launches per day than its predecessor while requiring 25 percent fewer crewmembers, resulting in an estimated savings of $4 billion in operating costs over a 50-year life span.
The ship is named after Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., the 38th President of the United States and a U.S. Navy veteran. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ford enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving from 1942 to 1946. While serving at Navy Preflight School in 1942 in Chapel Hill, NC, he taught seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid and military drill. At sea, Ford served aboard the light aircraft carrier, USS Monterey, which saw action in the Pacific throughout World War II. After the war, Ford left naval service, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander.
Continuing the traditions of those who served in World War II and since, a key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, meaning that the nation’s prosperity relies on its ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans, according to Navy officials. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast, and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
Garcamo is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Garcamo is most proud of graduating boot camp and raising his hand to join the Navy.
“I’m the first person in my family to join the military,” Garcamo said. “The recognition has been more than I thought; everyone is so proud of me and supportive.”
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard the carrier. Approximately 2,600 men and women currently make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,500 men and women will form the air wing responsible for flying and maintaining the aircraft aboard the ship.
“Sailors are the lifeblood of any warship and the men and women of the USS Gerald R. Ford are the absolute best that our Navy has to offer,” said Capt. John J. Cummings, commanding officer of USS Gerald R. Ford. “Because of the work they do, Warship 78 sailors will take our ship over the horizon and answer our nation’s call in ways that have never been done before. Our sailors are strong, resilient, and truly embody our ship’s motto of ‘Integrity at the Helm.’”
Ford, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship will carry more than 70 attack jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from, and land aboard the carrier at sea.
All of this makes Ford a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, and often the first response to a global crisis because of a carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon capital assets, Garcamo and other Ford sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Joining the Navy means a fresh start. I feel like I reached a dead end, and joining has given me the ability to start over and get back on my feet,” Garcamo added. “I’ve been able to get my feet wet and get a good understanding of ship life. It’s about getting familiar with seamanship and learning to be comfortable around such a big ship.”