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Norfolk Naval Shipyard Welcomes New Journeymen at Apprentice Graduation

By Kristi Britt, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Affairs Specialist | Nov. 13, 2019

NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —

Friends and family gathered Nov. 12 at Chrysler Hall to celebrate the achievements of the graduates of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Apprentice Program.

The 241 graduates, representing 24 trades across the shipyard, have completed a four-year training program, which includes academics, trade theory, and on-the-job experience. During the ceremony, the apprentices received a Technician Career Studies Certificate and were promoted to the journeymen level of their trade.

“I frequently speak of how people are the heart of what we do to accomplish the mission of Norfolk Naval Shipyard,” said Shipyard Commander, Capt. Kai Torkelson. “Our apprentice program is a vital artery of that heart. Tonight as graduates, the challenge is on each of you to renew your oath to the Navy as being entrusted to maintain the U.S. Navy’s ships and submarines, so they are well-equipped, highly capable and ready to operate at sea thousands of miles from home. You are on the front lines of executing the NAVSEA mission to design, build, deliver and maintain ships and systems on-time and on-cost for the United States Navy.”

The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Rear Admiral William C. Greene, Fleet Maintenance Officer, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. In his speech, he spoke about the fleet’s current readiness and future, and what it would take to maintain it. “That is why Norfolk Naval Shipyard, America’s Shipyard, is so vitally important to our fleet,” he said. “Norfolk is the crown jewel in our defense industrial base, able to conduct all levels of maintenance on our Navy’s aircraft carriers, submarines and surface ships. No other institution contributes so directly or so significantly to the nation’s defense, and has done so for so long.”

The NNSY Apprentice Program Class of 2019 valedictorian was Matthew N. Waters, a Shop 38 marine machinery mechanic. The 29-year-old Western Branch High School graduate completed the program with a 3.914 GPA. “These graduates possess unrelenting perseverance and commitment to quality and excellence to serve America’s Shipyard,” said Waters. “It’s often a marathon that teaches you a lot about the finish line. Without the hurdles I’ve encountered, I wouldn’t be here today. Use your obstacles to make you stronger and smarter. Embrace the chaos, conquer your fears, and become the best version of yourself. Take pride is what you do, don’t take it for granted, don’t ever compromise your integrity, strive for your goals, and selflessly serve America’s Fleet.”

This year marks the 106th anniversary of NNSY’s Apprentice Program, one of the most historic and honored apprentice programs in the nation. The program has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, in partnership with the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship (ACA), as a 21st Century Registered Apprenticeship Trailblazer and Innovator.

Salutatorian Jacob Burrell said, “I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere, the people, and the work here at NNSY. It’s been an once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m excited to continue my career as part of America’s Shipyard.”

For the second year in a row, one of NNSY’s apprentices was honored with the Department of Labor’s Outstanding Apprentice Award for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  This year’s honoree was Insulating Mechanic Aisha Clark, a native of Portsmouth. “It’s a tremendous honor and I’m proud to be part of NNSY,” said Clark. “For our fellow apprentices, both current and future, stay humble, stay true to yourself. Your character is most important, so never let anyone jeopardize it.”