By Chief Warrant Officer Jason Teasley, Food Service Officer, USS Gerald R. Ford and Lt. Cmdr. Chris M. Buchanan, Assistant Supply Officer, USS Gerald R. Ford
When Carrier Air Wing (CVW)-8 flew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) in May, it marked the ship's largest aircraft embark to date. It also marked a surge in the number of personnel aboard this first-in-class carrier, the first new carrier design in more than 40 years. The operation tested a new approach to feeding the nearly 4 thousand-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 Nimitz-class carriers. To feed the crew and to support CVW-8, Ford's supply department and food service division had to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) 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 aboard, as additional Culinary Specialists (CS) 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 CSs. 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 break out 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 ship's 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 thousand times more powerful, Rational 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 WiFi 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 as the oven sprays soapy water, enters a cleaning cycle, rinses itself out, and turns off when complete. The chefs 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 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 overall. 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 aboard 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 CSs. Yes,
you can have too many cooks in one kitchen.
As Ford develops and tests SOPs, 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 CSs 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 CSs and 54 FSAs. Ship's company CSs were responsible for training the air wing to meet the demanding schedule of feeding nearly 1 thousand 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.
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.