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Plank owner graduate selected as new deputy director for Southwest Regional Apprentice Program

By Anna Taylor, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs | Sept. 30, 2020

SAN DIEGO, Calif. —

Mtume Salaam, a 2014 graduate of the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center Apprentice Program in San Diego, California, was selected to be the new Deputy Apprentice Program Administrator at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility Detachment San Diego.

Salaam is a graduate of the school’s first class of journey-level trade professionals who set the standard for the San Diego apprenticeship.

“Ever since I came into the apprenticeship as a first year student, I enjoyed the entire process — the classroom, the deck plates, the nuclear and cleanliness work, and most of all, the camaraderie,” said Salaam. “So it felt great to come back into the fold as an instructor. And now, it feels even better to have an opportunity to lead the program.”

Salaam began his career with the shipyard after he was laid off from his previous job as a truck driver.

“I’d never set foot on a Navy base or a Navy vessel in my life,” he said. “I spent three years as a temporary services pipefitter apprentice. I was definitely not the smartest person in my class, but I studied a lot and managed to finish with a 4.0 grade point average, which helped me to graduate early.”

A year after finishing the program, Salaam was promoted to work leader, and later became a full-time supervisor for Temporary Services. He was then selected as a pipefitter instructor for the San Diego apprentice program.

“A year and a half later, my boss moved on and I applied and was selected for the deputy director position. It’s been ten years, but it went by fairly quickly.”

In his role as deputy director, Salaam says he makes sure all of the apprentices are learning what they need to become competent mechanics and future leaders. And according to Salaam, the word “leader” has multiple definitions.

“When I say ‘leader,’ I mean men and women who understand our mission, who pursue our goals, who embody our values and who honor our responsibilities,” he said. “If we can continue to create leaders, we will prove ourselves to be invaluable to not just the San Diego Detachment, but also to the shipyard and to the Navy as a whole.”

“Mtume has the ability to influence, motivate and challenge his work team,” added Reuben Farley, director of the PSNS & IMF Apprentice Program. “He has lived the life of an apprentice in the detachment and can lead with the understanding of what the students are going through. I believe he can adapt his leadership style to a variety of situations.”

Salaam said he hopes to instill a sense of pride in his students by setting high standards and modeling the same competency and professional conduct he expects to see from them.

“I sincerely believe that anyone who qualifies for our program can achieve whatever they want to achieve,” he said. “It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. But if you are diligent, you are consistent and, most of all, if you are completely unwilling to quit, you will go as far as you’d like to go. Oh, and also, learn to read and understand work packages. That’s essential.”

The Southwest Regional Apprentice Program is a partnership among PSNS & IMF; Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego; Fleet Readiness Center Southwest at Naval Air Station North Island; Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine; and Southwestern College in Chula Vista.