Story and photo by Keiichi Adachi, FLEACT, Yokosuka Public Affairs
U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) welcomed aboard 13 new apprentices during an entrance ceremony, April 1. The ceremony marked the start of the 30th year of SRF-JRMC’s Apprentice Program.
Welcoming the apprentices, SRF-JRMC Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Ballou said, “Our job at SRF-JRMC is to maintain, modernize and repair the ships of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. You will learn your trade from dedicated and talented craftsmen. However, your education does not end with the completion of your apprentice training.” He continued, “With advancing technology, our ships are becoming more and more complex. To keep up with these changes, your education will continue throughout your career. You will be expected to work to the standards that will keep you, your coworkers, and the ships safe, while delivering to our customers – the Sailors and their ships – the quality that they deserve. I expect nothing less.”
Over the years, SRF-JRMC has built and maintained a solid reputation for maintaining 7th Fleet ships. Without the highly developed skills and technical knowledge of its Japanese Master Labor Contract (MLC) ship repair craftsmen, this would not be possible. Since 1985, the SRF-JRMC Apprentice Program has been an important source for training and developing skilled craftsmen to replace seasoned journeymen as they retire.
According to the SRF-JRMC Training Division, once accepted into the program, apprentices begin with four months of familiarization in shop skills, followed by 1,000 hours of English language training provided in classes lasting four hours a day. To date, 662 apprentices have successfully completed the program.
Distinguished guest speaker, Yokosuka Defense Office Chief Shinichi Inami, delivered this message to the apprentices, “I am sure each of you will complete the training courses, develop good relationships with those in charge, and attain many skills. As I stated at the 26th Apprentice Graduation Ceremony last month, I was really impressed to learn your motto is ‘Nandemo dekimasu – We can do anything!’ The motto has become one of my favorite expressions.”
Ballou stressed the importance of honor, opportunities, and an inquisitive mind. “Honor is who you are, and is more valuable than anything else you own. Never forget to keep honor foremost in your work ethic, in dealing with your co-workers, and in your personal life. Each of you is much more to SRF-JRMC than just someone who is skilled with tools – each of you possesses the most powerful tool on earth, the human mind. Use your energy to improve SRF-JRMC and to uphold our mission, ‘Keep the Seventh Fleet Operationally Ready.’ Eagerly seek opportunities to improve yourselves.”
The ceremony concluded with the presentation of hard hats, color-coded to designate to each apprentice’s assigned shop, by SRF-JRMC Production Officer Cmdr. Tobias Lemerande.
Shogo Sakamaki, a former caregiver manager, learned about the Apprentice Program from a friend. Now assigned to the Rigger Shop, Sakamaki said, “The working environment at my previous job was stressful. I am interested in becoming an apprentice to improve my knowledge and to do ship repairs, because my father’s job is related to a craftsman. I am happy to become an apprentice and to do this job with military members.”
Also assigned to the Rigger Shop, Toshihiro Imanishi previously worked as a sales clerk at a phone company. He liked to watch people working at construction sites through the window of the train that he used to commute to work and thought they seemed happy to do their jobs.
Imanishi stated that the job assigned to him is what he wants to do. “I have not paid much attention to safety before. However, the Apprentice Program provides me with the opportunity to visualize the importance of safety for our daily business and others’ safety. SRF-JRMC enforces safety more than I imagined.”