Shipbuilders and Navy veterans Famatta Cole and Bill C. McCormick will attend the Armed Forces Classic this weekend on the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Photo by Lexi Whitehead

Shipbuilders in the Spotlight at the Armed Forces Classic

Published December 9, 2022

The flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) will swap out fighter jets for a basketball court and bleachers to host the ESPN Armed Forces Classic on Veterans Day.

The contest pits Michigan State against Gonzaga University in a clash of collegiate basketball powers. But two Newport News Shipbuilding employees attending the event will be able to see beyond the game.

Bill C. McCormick and Famatta Cole are Navy veterans who worked on the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) for CVN 72. During the game, the aircraft carrier will be a prime time stage, but they recall when it looked more like a construction zone, as shipbuilders worked to give the carrier another 25 years of service.

McCormick, a K45 foreman electrician, worked on the ship’s fiber optic network, catapults and antennas, just to name three.

“No matter where I go on that ship, I can look and see what I’ve done,” he said. “I can say, ‘I worked there’ or ‘I worked there.’ ‘I remember doing this.’”

Being there for the game “is going to be wild,” he said.

Cole, an E25 engineering technician, worked as a test electrician on CVN 72. Like McCormick, she worked in various areas of the ship.

“It was great,” she said. ”I was able to gain a lot of knowledge and experiences throughout the length of the project.”

Neither employee has ties to Michigan State or Gonzaga. McCormick follows the University of Kentucky Wildcats, another perennial basketball power. He’s pulling for Gonzaga to win, but notes “Michigan State is nothing to sneeze at, either.”

Cole has gone online to view videos of past basketball games that were played on aircraft carriers.

“It doesn’t even look like a ship,” she said. “It looks like you’re sitting in a gym except the sky is the ceiling. I’m really excited to see that.”

She is not a college basketball fan at the moment, but things can change.

“I might be after this,” she said.

The game tips off at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11. It will be broadcast live on ESPN. Viewers will also be introduced to NNS pipefitter Fatima Medina during an HII commercial that will air during the game.