A Lomira native was able to take part in the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford ship last month. Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Brad Koll was one of the few members of the Navy who played a role in the commissioning ceremony. “For me, this was a once in a lifetime moment and I was glad I was able to do it,” Koll said. “I had no idea I was going to be doing it until that week.
I knew there would be a lot of people, but before it happened I didn’t have a true sense of how big it was and how many people would be seeing it.” The commissioning ceremony is one of the four stages in a life of a ship.
The other stages include laying of the keel, the launching and then the decommissioning. “Prior to the commissioning ceremony we were PCU Gerald R. Ford, which stands for a precommissioning unit,” Koll said. “So after the commissioning, it’s technically turned over to the Navy and it is in the Naval service, and then dawned USS instead of PCU.” Koll played a special roll in the ceremony as he was able to set the first watch of the ship after it was commissioned.
“Throughout the whole ceremony it was with people who were attached to the ship, but I was up on the stage because I was the Boatswain mate of the watch,” he said. “When we’re underway I stand bridge watch upon the bridge so I was the inaugural Boatswain of the watch.” Part of his duties was using the Boatswain pipe.
This is a technique that was put in place before announce systems were installed on ships. Crews would communicate throughout the ship by listening for different pitches and tones to receive orders. “I was all gung ho for it when they told me I was going to be involved,” Koll said. “Whatever they needed me to do I was going to do it to the best of my ability. Initially I didn’t have a true idea of how big and monumental this was going to be.
It was eye opening once I realized and saw all the videos and coverage.” The ceremony was televised nationwide on networks such as Fox and CNN. “I knew who was coming to the commissioning ceremony itself, but I really didn’t know that it was going to be televised nationwide,” Koll said.
“It’s one of those things that I know I’ll be sharing with my kids and grandkids because I had the opportunity that very few people have and that is just very humbling.” President Donald Trump, former vice presidents and other high-ranking officials were just some of the people in attendance.
Also joining Koll for the ceremony were his parents Brian and Lynn, reside in Columbus. “He let us know that he was going to have a more active part than we had expected, but we didn’t really know to what extent it would be,” Brian said. “He’s earned this because he’s worked very hard in the Navy and I think they saw him as someone who would take this very seriously.
We are just so proud.” Brian added that seeing his son’s hard work pay off was the most rewarding part of the experience. “Seeing him with the president and past vice presidents and secretaries makes you understand what he’s accomplished,” he said. “What made me most happy was when we found out he’d be on TV because then people could understand his accomplishments aside from his mom and dad bragging about him.
They got to see it first hand that he works extremely hard.” Brad said having his parents, who missed a family wedding to attend the ceremony, there with him added to his overall experience.