Director, Submarine Construction
Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va.
My dad’s a retired Navy master chief. That’s how
we landed in the Tidewater area of Virginia,
where I’ve spent most of my life. My dad came to work
at the Newport News shipyard when he retired. After
earning a business management degree at Virginia
Tech, I started here in 1981 scheduling piers and dry
docks, among other things.
I was looking for more challenges. One of our vice
presidents gave me a job chasing material all hours of
the day and night for submarines in the final throes of
delivery. Later, when we were starting up modular construction, he wanted a sampling of people with varied
backgrounds to gain a fresh perspective about submarine construction instead of the traditional ways of
shipbuilding. He brought me in even though I did not
have a background in heavy construction.
After work on Los Angeles-class submarines as a
zone manager and, later, superintendent, I went into
planning for the Virginia-class submarine. After three
years, seven months and 13 days away from the waterfront, I became construction director in 2002.
Twenty-eight years is not very long by waterfront
standards. We have more than 500 master shipbuilders
here, who have more than 40 years’ service. That is
something to brag about.
I’m very fortunate to have a job like this. It still excites
me every day. I never know exactly what I’m going to be
working on or facing specifically when I come in each
day. Even though the construction of the ship is 60-70
months, I get to see progress every single day.
A lot of people probably don’t get to see the fruits of
their labor. I’ve got an opportunity to see hull sections
come together, equipment landed, systems come alive
for the first time, Sailors taking ownership of the ship.
It’s almost an emotional thing toward the end, where it’s
not my ship anymore, it’s theirs, but I still call it my ship
and I still call them my crew until they’re long gone.
Leadership has a lot to do with reinforcing positive
behaviors. I consider myself a facilitator. I’ve got a lot of
craftsmen and supervisors working for me with an
unflagging desire for excellence. They know how to get
the job done, but they sometimes run into barriers. One
of the best ways to motivate folks is to show them you’re
willing to go out and help them knock down those barriers and then step back and allow them to do their best.
We’re continuing a craftsman tradition at Newport
News that goes back more than a century. Supporting
those folks is an honor. They’re very proud to deliver
remarkable ships to the Navy.
I see America as an uncompromising entity in global affairs. The U.S. Navy is absolutely vital in that effort
and I can’t even express how proud I am that I have a
small role to play in that. ■
“A lot of people probably don’t get to see the fruits of their labor. I’ve got an
opportunity to see hull sections come together, equipment landed, systems
come alive for the first time, Sailors taking ownership of the ship. It’s almost
an emotional thing toward the end, where it’s not my ship anymore, it’s theirs.”