Forging the Future of the Fleet at NNSY

Photo By Shelby Wilfong | The Shop 11F Forge Team and Code 980 Le'Tron Hall with the refurbished furnaces. From Left to Right: Eric Lynch, Aunnalynn Beason, Chris Kanash, Le'Tron Hall, David Williams, John Sales, Eric Slate, and Jesse Dalton.
January 28, 2020

It has been said unanimously by the small team of the Forging Shop (Shop 11F) that they are the best shop in Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY).

To some, that may just seem like they are a confident group of forgers. However, this team spends each day in the sweltering heat of the forges crafting metal to ensure the quality needed for the fleet. They have to be precise in their work and trust in one another to have their backs as they work. In addition, they must also have reliable equipment and tools to get the job done.

“When you’re forging, you need a minimum of three people at a time working the job,” said Shop 11F Heavy Forger, Eric Slate. “This is hot, heavy, dangerous work we’re doing with these forges and we have to trust our lives in the hands of our comrades. We put everything into our trade and into our team. We learn from one another and help each other out no matter what. Even though the job is hard, I’ve never felt like I’ve worked a day in my life because this is such a great job and team.”

Shop 11F is equipped to do all types of forging. It has hydraulic presses up to 1,250 tons capacity, stress-relieving furnaces, and heat-treating facilities. In addition to forging, the shop cleans, inspects and repairs anchor chains and propeller blades. The team is always hard at work, whether it be on an emergent job or building on their craft to improve the quality of their work.

“What we do is very unique and we invest a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the craft,” said Shop 11F Work Leader, John Sales. “We build an assembly line and work with each other to take on the different tasks. Whether it be in the booth, the manipulator, or when we’re on the floor – we all play a piece in getting the job done. What’s more is that we can change a piece of metal from start to finish. It’s such fun work and I’m lucky to have such a hard-working team of folks alongside me.”

Stationed in Bldg. 163, the forging shop has been around since 1918, more than 100 years at NNSY. When the building was finalizing its construction, the shop was fitted with two forging furnaces. To this day, these furnaces have stood the test of time to provide their services to the fleet. Over time, more equipment has been installed in the shop; however, these furnaces have truly shown to be built to last.

“As forgers, you rely heavily on your tools of the trade. It’s important to give this team the best equipment and tools they need to succeed,” said Production Facility and Equipment Management Division (Code 980) General Engineer Le’Tron Hall. “We’ve had equipment last no more than a year before having trouble functioning. Meanwhile, these furnaces have stood ready with only some issues here and there. They needed some refurbishment to get them back at their highest working standard. So we in Code 980 looked on how to do that.”

Hall added, “It was a challenge at first because we didn’t have the bricks or the expertise to refit these furnaces. We worked with contractors to change out the combustion in November of last year and from there we were on a roll. We finished the refurbishment in June and it’s running better than I ever thought possible. Seeing how much this equipment benefits the team utilizing it every day is so amazing to me. We hope that it will last another 100 years for our shipyard.”

“We have pride in the work we do and having the tools we need to get things done is very important,” said Shop 11F Forger Apprentice Jesse Dalton. “We’ll continue to work efficiently and improve ourselves. Because this is the best job at NNSY and we’re going to continue to show everyone that we’re the best of the best.”