Page 31: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (January 2019)

Ship Repair & Conversion: The Shipyards

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Walk with David M. Thomas, Jr., VP & GM, San Diego Ship Re- pair, BAE Systems, and a few things become immediately clear: Dave

Thomas is passionate about cleanliness and order, as the San Diego yard is compact and bustling with work, yet impeccably clean. Dave

Thomas is passionate about safety, and he takes the health and wel- fare of every employee, colleague, client and guest personally. Most of all, Dave Thomas is passionate about everything U.S. Navy. Follow- ing a distinguished U.S. Navy career, his second act is ensuring that this big, meticulous client and the ships that it operates are ready and able for any mission that might fall to them, anywhere in the world.

By Greg Trauthwein “I walk to work every day and I am inspired every num superstructures to steel ships.” time I walk around this yard,” said Thomas. “I always When Maritime Reporter & Engineering News vis- wanted to be in the Navy, it’s all I ever wanted to do ited in November 2018, the diversity in the ships un- since I was a little kid. My dad was in the Navy and I der repair was evident with the following in for repair: couldn’t wait to join, which I did the day after I turned • USS Omaha (LCS 12), Littoral Combat Ship (LCS); 18.” • USS Howard (DDG 83), Guided Missile Destroyer

That passion for the U.S. Navy born with the man (DDG); still burns today. “It’s an honor for me to be able to • USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), Dock Landing Ship continue to serve my country. To the sailors and the (LSD); marines who will take those ships far away. It’s a priv- • USS San Diego (LPD 22), Amphibious Transport ilege. I love what I do.” Dock (LPD);

David M. Thomas, Jr. standing atop the wingwall of

But the job of maintaining Navy ships takes more • USS Cape St. George (CG 71), Guided Missile one of two drydocks in service than passion, and Thomas understands the business Cruiser (CG); and at BAE System’s San Diego courtesy of his Navy career. “Having been the custom- • USS Sterett (DDG 104), Guided Missile Destroyer shipyard. er, I understand the requirement for compliance with (DDG).

Photo: BAE Systems/Maria McGregor the specs, the Navy’s appropriately high standards,” While a shipyard’s facilities, particularly docks said Thomas during our recent visit to the San Diego and lift capability, are an obvious part of its success, yard. “Our commitment to that quality and the timely Thomas maintains that without a quali? ed employee delivery of those vessels is our number one priority. base and competent subcontractor network, the best

It’s not a challenge, it’s a commitment.” facilities are of little use. “People are most important, without question,” said Thomas. “The facilities are in-

The “Pivot West” credible too, but without the right team, without the

San Diego has always been a navy town, but as the right leadership, the facilities don’t matter as much.”

U.S. Navy works toward the stated goal of a 355-ship To this end, the company is investigating an appren- navy combined with its ‘pivot west,’ there is obvious tice program for long-term workforce developmet.

growth in and around this major southern California Like any shipyard, the BAE systems facility in San city. In fact Thomas is seemingly part of the ‘pivot Diego requires continuous investment and upgrade, west’, as us until a year ago he held the same posi- the biggest and most evident one being a second dry- tion at BAE Systems’ Jacksonville, FL, yard before dock delivered just over one year ago. “We’ve invest- accepting the San Diego assignment. “The opportu- ed in a brand new drydock to accommodate all of the nity to continue to repair and modernize navy ships ships in the ? eet here in San Diego, up to the large attracted me to the position in San Diego, but really deck amphibs and the conventional surface ? eet.” it’s the same customer, different coast,” said Thomas.

But in San Diego the size and diversity of the Navy Keeping Clean presence is evident, as there is everything from air- While San Diego is a long-tenured navy town, it is craft carriers, to the large deck amphib class ships, the somewhat unique in that there is a large population

LPD17s, the cruisers, destroyers and minesweepers, base – an estimated 1.5 million – situated in close as well as the addition of the new DDG1000, and LCS quarter with a string of shipyards, all residing in Cali- populations. fornia and its demanding environmental laws. Being “We’ve worked on ships with 30 years’ of time a good environmental steward is the mandate, not the in service to brand new ships and everything in be- expectation. “I read ‘Silent Spring’ as a kid; I watched vy ships operating tween,” said Thomas. “We’ve worked on ships with Jacques Cousteau, and I literally sailed around the wooden hulls and we’ve worked on ships with alumi- world, so I know what it looks like when the environ- 31

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