SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Twenty apprentices were recognized during a ceremony at Southwestern College Mayan Hall on Sept. 9, marking a milestone as the first graduating class of the Southwest Regional Apprenticeship Program.
These graduates have earned their journey worker certificates from the Department of Navy, Department of Labor and also a certificate of proficiency in leadership and supervision from Southwestern College.
Leading the class were Apprentice of the Year, Deborah Fulbright and Class Speaker, Mtume Salaam. Salaam was also recognized as the 2014 scholastic achievement award winner.
On Aug. 11, 2010, the ribbon was cut signifying the opening of the Southwest Regional Apprenticeship School in partnership with Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF), Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC), Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRC-SW) and Southwestern College. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard joined the partnership in the program's second year. Five days after the ribbon was cut, the first 24 apprentices began classes starting their journey toward becoming journey-level workers.
These last four years were no easy task. The apprenticeship required classroom instruction and on-the-job training, sometimes flying to locations to fix ships and aircraft in support of the workload, all the while maintaining at least 2.0 grade point average to remain in the program. In fact, these graduates have an overall class GPA of 3.651 and 75 percent of the class graduated with a 3.5 GPA or above.
Rear Adm. Mark Whitney, deputy commander; Logistics, Maintenance and Industrial Operations for Naval Sea Systems Command, recalls being at the ribbon cutting in 2010 as the PSNS & IMF commander.
"I remember helping to cut the ribbon [opening the school] four years ago, and at the time I made a promise I would come back in four years and speak at your graduation," said Whitney. "Remember, you didn't get here by yourselves. It took the support of your friends, family and instructors along with your hard work and dedication to help get you here tonight."
This journey isn't over. These graduates are now mechanics with PSNS & IMF, SWRMC or FRC-SW, acting on their call to service-ship and aircraft maintenance.
"Do your best and be your best," Capt. Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, commanding officer, SWRMC said. "Just think how much you can accomplish by putting your best effort forward."
Apprentices learned not only their trades, but how to prepare and adapt to the changing environment in fleet maintenance.
"There are many challenges that await you," said Capt. Timothy Pfannenstein, commanding officer, FRC-SW. "Your training has readied you for success and these challenges should be looked upon as opportunities to display your excellence."
Capt. Steve Williamson, the event's keynote speaker and commander, PSNS & IMF, addressed the graduates on the importance of their role to the Navy's mission.
"This is just the beginning. Your challenge is to take what you have learned and not just apply your trade, but ensure the platforms on which our men and women serve are safe, fully efficient and fully effective."
Williamson concluded with, "we can't leave defense at the pier. That is why what you do isn't a job. It's a call to service."
The evening wrapped up with 20 apprentice alumni, now journey level mechanics, ready to take on challenges with all the dedication that got them here tonight, the Southwest Regional Apprentice Program graduating class of 2014.
For more news from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, visit www.navy.mil/local/PSNS/.