Master Shipbuilder Welds Massachusetts’ Keel Ronnie Payne has been a shipbuilder for 43 years.

Master Shipbuilder Welds Massachusetts’ Keel

Published December 15, 2020

Master Shipbuilder Ronnie Payne has served the Newport News Shipbuilding community as a welder for 43 years and has been a part of the Virginia-Class Submarine Program since it began.

On Dec. 11, Payne took center stage when he welded Ship’s Sponsor Sheryl Sandberg’s initials onto a steel plate during the Massachusetts (SSN 798) keel laying ceremony.

A Newport News native, Payne didn’t originally set out to be a longtime shipbuilder. He had envisioned a future in the military to pursue his dream of becoming a helicopter pilot, but when his father became ill, he took a job at NNS to stay close to home.

Payne’s crew mates describe him as a huge asset for his experience, welding ability and desire to help train the new generation of welders.

“It’s why I stay here. I want to pass on everything I have learned to new shipbuilders and make sure they are doing it the right way,” he said.

Payne believes “the sub life is the good life.” He said he will always have a sense of pride knowing he was responsible for welding Sandberg’s initials onto the plate that will be affixed to the ship for all time.