PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - They are the backbone of the shipyard. Each year, Ingalls Shipbuilding recognizes workers who've been there for 40 years or longer. They're given the honorary designation of master shipbuilder.
"This is my accuracy control guy," said Luella Farmer as she gave a brief tour of the pipe shop at Ingalls. "He's actually inspecting what's done before it hits the floor."
Farmer never imagined her career at the shipyard would span four decades.
"I was just out of high school. I had some friends that had moved to this area. I'm actually from Natchez, MS, and I graduated on a Friday night. Two nights later, I was in Moss Point, looking for a job at the shipyard," Farmer recalled.
Pride and patriotism are ingrained in the work ethic at Ingalls.
"I actually have a husband that's in the military, so dealing with the ships makes me know we really have to look out for safety. I understand the military, and we have to keep our guys safe," said Farmer.
"I actually started back in 1976 just to come out here, just to get a vehicle to go to school, and you can see, I never left," said Lawrence Washington, sporting a big smile.
He's part of the sonar test team, which most recently worked on the John Finn. Like so many of his fellow workers, it's a career passed down through generations.
"My Dad was here and he done 43 years, so I'm looking to try and match what he's done out here. He was a painter," said Washington.
After 40 years, Larry Girouard is still amazed to see the ships come together from so many parts and pieces.
Among the highlights of his career was the USS Cole.
"I worked on the Cole when it came in, helped restore it and took great pride in seeing it sail back out as a fighting machine. It was amazing to see something we built survive such a devastating blow and be able to put it back together," Girouard remembered.
It's also a testimony to the skills of so many master shipbuilders.
This year alone, Ingalls is recognizing 97 workers with 40 years of service. The total number of master shipbuilders is now 386.