NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
The leaders of Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) Shipfitter Shop (Shop 11) beam with pride when they discuss their shop, their people, and their work. “We set the bar and we are the gold standard of what inside shop work should look like,” said NNSY’s Structural Group (Code 920) Inside Shop Director Dan Shirley.
Shirley and his colleague, Inside Shop Manager Larry Williams Jr., are both veterans of Shop 11. Both arrived at shipyard by way of the NNSY apprenticeship program – Shirley 14 years ago and Williams 15 years ago. Since then, they have built careers within the shop. Williams, who entered as a forger in Shop 11F said, “To me, the inside shop is home. I’ve been here my entire career and I love it.”
Shop 11 provides structural fabrication and repairs for ships in the overhaul process. Along with Shop 11F, the forge shop, it handles heat treating, forging services and anchor chain and propeller repair. Together, the shops have 47 people who, according to Shirley, “support both NNSY and the entire Fleet.”
In the past year alone, the shops have accomplished several impressive feats including special emphasis work for Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay; completing a propeller swap on the USS Newport News (SSN-750) at Naval Station Norfolk; supporting the undocking of the USS Wyoming (SSBN-742) by completing the circularity; fabricating the first and only emergency diesel platform for the Virginia Class and fabricating the USS La Jolla’s (SSN-701) tow foundation – the last step before the boat was able to leave NNSY for Nuclear Power Training Unit-Charleston. The shop’s flange turners fabricated the bus bars for the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), which allowed the ship to deploy. Recently, the shop did an end link replacement on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) in which personnel removed the ship’s anchor, relinked a section of the chain, and replaced the end link. This effort was completed in coordination with the ship. Finally, Shop 11 took over the coordination and management of the Shop Store 11 that supports every shop and entity at NNSY.
As evidenced by the important work completed in the last year, the shop is essential to NNSY and the Fleet’s mission. “A boat will never leave without its wheel (propeller) or its anchor chain. Those are repairs we make here inside the shop,” said Williams. “It all starts with the Inside Shop. We are the backbone because most of the jobs that we fabricate are for final installation by Shop 11 waterfront personnel.”
Williams said the shop is the best place for a young mechanic to master his or her trade, adding that many of the best and most seasoned mechanics have spent years in the shop doing so. Shop 11 leaders said they focus deeply on developing their employees to ensure they are able to not just learn, but master, their trade. “We take very good care of our people and in turn, they take good care of us. We develop our people into mechanics who take pride and leadership in their jobs,” said Shirley. “When they get assigned a job, that is their job and it has their name on it. We have an excellent reputation with the quality of work that we put out and for us to continue to do that, we look for people with integrity.”
The leaders of Shop 11 have high standards for their people, but they also have them for themselves. “We have set a high bar for our people and for ourselves. That is the standard and I think everyone knows that,” said Williams. One way Shop 11 leaders maintain this high bar is by having an open door policy for all supervisors and mechanics. They encourage their mechanics to bring issues up the chain of command and work hard to remove any roadblocks that might prevent mechanics from performing first-time quality work.
The shop has several exciting and challenging projects on the horizon. Mechanics in Shop 11 are currently working to finish the Ram Storage Enclosure and closure for the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and in the future will fabricate the racetrack for the Virginia Class which will support Sailor repair work.
As always, the shop will own the projects and focus on achieving excellence FROM everyone, said Williams. “I believe that ownership is an attitude that we each must bring every day. If I give 100 percent doing my job and everyone else in my shop does – that helps us get ships out on time and that is our major motivation.”
By accomplishing work critical to both NNSY and the U.S. Navy’s mission, Shirley said that Inside Shop 11 is “not just NNSY’s, but the entire Fleets, we are America’s Inside Shop.”