CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) -- With more than 65 years of welding experience between them, it's easy to see why artisans David Webber and Mike Clark are top experts in their field.
Now they're in a position to share their expertise with the fleet.
Webber and Clark are welding training leaders at the NAVAIR Depot Cherry Point Fleet Training Welding School. Located in the depot's Manufacturing Shop, the school offers three different aviation welding courses which certify students from all branches of the military at various levels.
In addition to U.S. military personnel, Webber and Clark teach civilians and personnel from foreign governments as well, and their welding program has recently been included in the depot's Co-op Program.
"I'm amazed at how well our students do," Clark said. "They learn a tremendous amount of welding while they're here, and the skills they develop are really impressive. Our training is pretty intensive, and they leave here highly skilled."
Webber first learned to weld as a Navy Seabee in the late 60s. Before coming to the depot in 1978, he was a pipe welder as a civilian and also worked in construction. His background experience helped him land a welding job at the depot, and he took over the welding school in 1986.
Born and raised in Portsmouth, Va., Clark went to work at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry dock after high school, where he worked as a shipfitter helper and learned to weld. He joined the federal workforce in 1977 as an apprentice welder at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and did nuclear welding before switching to aviation welding.
Later, he worked at Naval Air Depot Norfolk until it closed, and he came to NAVAIR Depot Cherry Point in November 1994.
"We certified 47 students last year," Webber said, "and we maintain over 1500 military and civilian certification records. We've trained guys from the Italian navy and the Greek air force, and we train many foreign military officers to be instructors. It's a very rewarding experience."
As recognized experts, Webber and Clark provide advice and guidance in response to troubleshooting calls from all over the world, and Webber was invited to speak on the military aspects of aviation welding at the American Welding Society Conference in Chicago two years ago. But both men say their primary interest is in their students.
"The highpoint of this job for me is being able to help and motivate people," Webber said. "Sometimes we get calls from former students to say how well they're doing or to thank us for helping them. It always gives us a good feeling anytime we can share our knowledge to help people with their careers."
Clark agrees and says he also enjoys the unique challenge of instructing the foreign students.
"For the most part, they do a great job," he said. "Sometimes the language barrier is difficult if they can't speak English very well, but they're very respectful and it's interesting to work with so many different personalities."
NAVAIR Depot Cherry Point provides maintenance, engineering, and logistics support on a wide variety of aircraft, engines, and components for all branches of the U.S. armed forces. The depot's mission is to support NAVAIR in providing the American warfighter with absolute combat power through mastery of six broad categories of naval aviation technologies: sensors, aircraft, weapons, training, launch and recovery, and communications.
Employing almost 4,000 people, the depot is the only source of repair within the continental United States for many jet and rotary wing engines. It is the Navy's center of excellence for rotary wing aircraft, providing engineering and logistics support for all Navy helicopters.
For more information about the Naval Air Systems Command, go to www.navair.navy.mil. For related news, visit the NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/NAVAIR.