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    Brace for Shock, Father-Son Share Shock Trials Experience 34 Years Apart

    USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Conducts Shock Trials

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Jackson Adkins | USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) successfully completed the second of three scheduled...... read more read more



    Story by Senior Chief Petty Officer Ryan Wilber 

    USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)       

    Thirty-four years separates the current U.S. aircraft carrier undergoing Full Ship Shock Trials (FSST), USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and the last aircraft carrier to complete FSST, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). For two Sailors, a father and son, the same number of years separates a shared shock trials experience.

    Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AZ) 1st Class (Retired) Gary Campbell Sr., from Marcellus, New York, served on Roosevelt in 1987 as a petty officer 2nd class during FSST, and currently, Master Chief Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear) Gary Campbell Jr., from San Diego, California, is serving on Ford during her FSST.

    Campbell Sr. experienced four planned explosive events on Roosevelt, the fourth carrier of the Nimitz-class, and Campbell Jr. has undergone just the first two of three planned explosions on the first-in-class Ford. Both agree that shock trials are difficult to appreciate until a person experiences that first shock.

    “The first one sounded like a shotgun blast right behind my head even though it’s 100s of yards out in the water,” said Campbell Jr. “It felt like it was right here, right behind my head.”

    Aside from the father-son lineage, the Campbells are not straight generational Sailors, but they have several family members that have served in the Navy, including during World War II and Vietnam. Campbell Sr. said he always felt that two of his sons were destined for military service.

    “For Gary and our second son Matthew, we knew pretty early on they would go into the Navy,” said Campbell Sr. “Gary ended up in the surface world or engineering world and Matthew became an officer through the STA-21 (Seaman-to-Admiral) program. The rest is history as they say.”

    Father and son served in different eras, in different areas of their ships, and at different times in their careers, but as Sailors must, each did their part with their shipmates depending on them. Campbell Sr. was a hoseman for Repair Locker 6/7 with seven years active service during FSST, standing ready to combat any fire that ignited following each shot. The departmental Shock Trials Coordinator for Reactor department with nearly 20 years of service, Campbell Jr. plans procedures for pre and post-shock maintenance and testing, and ensures proper monitoring and recording of equipment parameters before and after the shock.

    Both agree that actually experiencing the sound and intensity of a shock can be an eye-opener for the crew, but also results in a professional response based on the training and expertise of a skilled warfighter.

    “The situation dictates the response,” said Campbell Sr. “When Sailors experience real-world events, that’s when they really demonstrate their toughness.”

    “They [Reactor department watch standers] did a great job!,” added Campbell Jr. “They took their actions just as they were trained, completed all their testing and documented as required. I couldn’t imagine it going any better than it has gone. They step up at every turn and get the job done, and I am very impressed with their performance.”

    Campbell Sr. said it was not until he came across a few news articles and reports about the historical significance of Ford’s shock trials that he began to consider the significance of his and his son’s shared experience.

    “It didn’t sink in until I saw some articles that talked about Ford being the first carrier to do it [FSST] since Roosevelt did. That’s when I thought ‘oh, wow, interesting! - I hope Gary enjoys it.’”

    The importance of Ford’s shock trials is not lost on Campbell Jr. either.

    “We know a lot of smart people put a lot of ideas into this ship… the base design is solid. It’s great to see were proving the ship is functional to not just us, but everyone else out there,” said Campbell Jr. “To go through shock trials and know we can survive this, and we can continue to operate and do what the nation needs us to do with this class of ship is pretty exciting.”

    For Sailors, navigating an uncertain, potentially dangerous operation such as FSST can be enjoyable while also requiring focused training and hard work.

    “It’s been a lot of fun, getting to see the ship respond,” said Campbell Jr. “But, the thing I am most proud of is how the Sailors have responded. They have worked really hard and done a great job! Getting to see the watch standers take their actions; they’re taking the right actions just how they were trained, and the equipment has responded very well.”

    Each shock, progressively closer to the ship, comes with it’s own sound, feel and effect. Campbell Jr. said he didn’t notice a lot of difference from shock one to two on Ford, while the experience of Roosevelt’s last shot stuck in the memory of Campbell Sr.

    “The two shots were pretty comparable,” said Campbell Jr. “The noise was about the same, but we were more prepared for it. The shockwave didn’t feel too much different, but the way things responded, it was pretty clear it was more intense. I’m curious how this third one is going to feel, since this is the max shot.”

    “That fourth shot was a doozie! It felt like the ship rose out of the water and settled back down as the blast subsided,” added Campbell Sr.

    Both Sailors said they were proud to be a part of naval history and believe that everyone involved will have something memorable to look back on.

    “You guys are going to really have something to look back on someday,” said Campbell Sr. “You will be able to say ‘yeah, we did the first one – we had to go through the hassles, the trials and tribulations, but we did the first one.’ That feels good, that we were able to put it together.”

    “Knowing that we are that one generation of Sailors that get to do this, and to get to do it on this class is pretty exciting,” added Campbell Jr.

    As Ford prepares to get underway for the last shock of her shock trials, Campbell Sr. shared his advice.

    “When they tell you to brace for shock, you brace for shock,” said Campbell Sr. “Be prepared for anything. It’s going to be closer; it’s going to be a whole lot louder and it’s going to shake a whole lot more. You never know how the people will respond; the ship will respond. Expect the worst and hope for the best.”

    Campbell Jr. had his own advice and encouragement for the Ford crew.

    “Fall back on your training. Everything the ship does is to survive a moment like this,” said Campbell Jr. “This crew has done amazing things; continue to do what you have been doing. You may not realize it, but you are ready.”

    Ford is preparing for the last explosive event of FSST. The U.S. Navy conducts shock trials of new ship designs using live explosives to confirm that our warships can continue to meet demanding mission requirements under the harsh conditions they might encounter in battle.

    For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit



    Date Taken: 08.03.2021
    Date Posted: 08.03.2021 15:26
    Story ID: 402364
    Location: NORFOLK, VA, US 
    Hometown: MARCELLUS, NY, US
    Hometown: SAN DIEGO, CA, US

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