Shipbuilders who completed a critical weld for Massachusetts (SSN 798) were honored for their quality work. Photo by Ashley Cowan

Shipbuilders Honored for Work on Critical Weld

Published March 9, 2022

A team of Newport News Shipbuilding welders was recently honored for quality work on a critical weld for Virginia-class submarine Massachusetts (SSN 798).

Leaders from the Virginia-Class Submarine Program and the Trades Division – including Xavier Beale, vice president of Trades – gathered in February to recognize the shipbuilders who worked on the Main Omega Seal weld – described as one of the most critical welds performed at NNS.

“They executed that weld from start to finish with zero quality issues,” said Lead General Foreman Vernon Eason. “Several of the welders volunteered to go to night shift and worked extended shifts so we could work it around the clock. It would have been easy for them to get distracted as the team experienced COVID impacts, but they stayed focused and got the job done. I’m very proud of these guys.”

The team’s performance bodes well for Massachusetts and for NNS. “This kind of quality, while keeping the schedule on track, absolutely speaks volumes to our credibility with the Navy,” said VCS Program Director Rob Check.

Nick Wobser (X18), a welder who worked on the project, said being part of the Main Omega Seal weld team is “like an ultimate goal” for pipe welders.

“It’s like the highest-profile job we work, so it’s kind of something you want to work yourself up to. It’s a nice goal to set for yourself to be on this crew and do this job,” he said. “It’s stressful, but it’s rewarding when you finish.”

Like Wobser, Adam Holbrooks (X18) has worked on several Main Omega Seal weld teams. He was proud of the newer shipbuilders who were part of the Massachusetts team.

“The number of guys who have done it are limited now. You’re seeing your veterans retire or they’re not on it any longer. What we had this time around – and on the past few boats – is a lot of younger guys stepping up to perform,” he said. “It’s a huge commitment. It can be nerve-racking, but they kept their composure, and it’s awesome to see what they’ve done.”

Richard Sewalish (X18), another welder who worked on the project, said this type of performance is expected from the team. He credits good leadership, experience and shipbuilders who take pride in what they do.

“I’m an Army veteran. For me, it’s all about the capabilities of VCS submarines and what they do for a warfighter on ground,” he said. “No one appreciates a cruise missile coming in more than guys on the ground, and I used to be one of those guys on the ground.”