Captain John Meier, Commanding Officer, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), presented “Creating a Culture of Excellence” on April 30, 2015 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Captain Meier has traveled to Grand Rapids to participate in ceremonies and events for the Foundation and Museum, all while building his crew for CVN 78, the first crew of the ship.
Jim Kratas, Deputy Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, provided opening remarks and introduced Susan Ford Bales. Ford Bales, daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford, serves as a Foundation Trustee but also as the Ship Sponsor of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
Ford Bales highlighted Gerald R. Ford’s joy when he was informed that America’s next aircraft carrier was going to be named for him. She read a letter that Gerald R. Ford wrote that expressed how the greatest honor in his life was to serve as Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific during World War II. He said “Thus, it is a source of indescribable pride and humility to know that an aircraft carrier bearing my name will be permanently associated with valor and patriotism of the men and women of the United States Navy”.
Captain Meier started his remarks with providing an update on CVN 78’s construction and steps for completion. Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is 100,000 tons of redesigned naval achievement which will serve as the greatest ship in the US Navy fleet. Roughly half of the ship is completed and the ship is in its “year of the test” as it’s being tested and retested for its launch in 2016.
Captain Meier knows that the personnel development is key to ensuring the technology is met with the very best crew. Captain Meier, along with Susan Ford Bales, designed the ship’s crest, with the ship’s motto “Integrity at the Helm”. Building the crew with integrity at its base was key to Captain Meier. He hopes that President Ford’s character is a shining example to the crew throughout the life of the ship. Captain Meier touched on President Ford’s history including serving in the US Navy during World War II, being a man of compromise in his time in US Congress and serving as Vice President.
While not elected to the Presidency, Captain Meier felt there were numerous examples of President Ford’s integrity and character that should be well known throughout his crew. Ford lead our nation through Watergate and honorably ending the US involvement in Vietnam. Captain Meier felt that Operation Babylift led by President Ford was one President Ford’s greatest decisions as President, even when Ford felt pressure to not act as he did to save thousands of Vietnamese, including orphaned babies.
A key theme to “Creating a Culture of Excellence” for Captain Meier is demonstrating in action and deed to sailors that they are indeed important to him. Actions are not just words on paper, which is part of the reason why he personally sits down with each and every sailor that joins his crew. He wants to know why they joined the Navy, why they are staying in the Navy and what is important to their life. He feels the more he knows about their life helps him be a better Commanding Officer and starts the trusting relationship he wants to have with his crew.