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Brooklyn-born Navy sailor helps get aircraft carrier ready for service

August 21, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Petty Officer First Class Ernest Quinones, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy 10 years ago, is a gunner’s mate aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy
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Petty Officer First Class Ernest Quinones, a native of Brooklyn, is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a hand-picked crew charged with the job of bringing the country’s newest aircraft carrier into service.

Quinones, 32, who enlisted in the Navy 10 years ago, is a gunner’s mate aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, a pre-commissioned ship that will serve as a successor to the Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers that have been in operation for the last half century.

The ship is expected to be commissioned in 2016.

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Quinones said it is an exciting time to be in the Navy, helping to build a crew and a ship from scratch, something she never expected to be doing just a couple years ago. “I grew up quickly in the Navy. I learned how to work with a team and play to the strengths and weaknesses others,” he said.

Quinones is the first in his immediate family to join the Navy. His younger sister joined a month ago.

“Petty Officer Quinones plays a vital role in preparing our nation’s newest and most technologically advanced warship for sea,” said Capt. John F Meier, the commanding officer of the Gerald R. Ford.  “We have the opportunity to build this command with the ideals of our namesake and we are creating the command climate and a culture of excellence that we have always wanted. This crew is setting that standard, a standard that will last for the 50-plus year life of the ship,” Meier added.

Quinones and the rest of the crew of 1,000 sailors are slowly bringing the Gerald R. Ford to life. The crew is expected to grow to more than 4,500 when the ship is at sea. When it is complete, the aircraft carrier, powered by two nuclear reactors, will measure more than three football fields in length and will weigh more than 100,000 tons. It will be capable of sailing at nearly 35 mph and will carry more than 75 aircraft.

There are no Navy schools for some of the new equipment aboard ship, so the crew is partnering with the ship builder, Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, and other vendors to master the new systems.

“This is a unique opportunity to see first-hand how the systems are installed and tested, which is an advantage that future crews won’t have an opportunity to experience. Petty Officer Quinones and his shipmates are becoming the subject matter experts. They are working hand in hand with the shipyard throughout the testing phase and in turn teaching the Navy how to operate this new class of aircraft carriers,” Meier said.

Like the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers that came before it, the USS Gerald R. Ford’s mission is to protect and defend America on the world’s oceans. When the ship deploys it will bring four-and-a-half acres of sovereign U.S. territory, increasing the Navy’s military capability and defending the nation’s interests.

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