Local veterans are lacing up their steel toe boots as they train for their new roles. A quarter of a million U.S. veterans are unemployed, and Ingalls Shipbuilding is helping to put more sailors, soldiers, and marines to work. Mike Catchings, Veteran Representative at Ingalls Shipbuilding, says, "To me, the homeless and the amount of veterans not working is a great disservice." The shipyard's ‘Fast Track Foreman' program selects veterans and trains them for leadership positions. Catchings also says, "We kind of put them through a rigorous selection process because we want to identify some people that can come in and help the shipbuilding business." Ingalls now employs more than 1,500 veterans and hopes the program will help ease their transition back into civilian life.
Lito Manganti, a participant in the program, says, "I haven’t done this in 23 years. I had a completely different trade coming out of the Seabees and it’s a totally new world for me." Matthew Tyson, another participant, says, "The leadership you learn while in the military, to lead people and to organize projects and get things going, that all translates into the civilian world." Veterans make up more than a tenth of all Ingalls employees and the ‘Fast Track Foreman’ program gives more veterans opportunities for leadership positions. Chad Shaw, another participant of the program, says, "When you come upon retirement, there are no more guarantees and Ingalls provides us that guarantee now." Their new roles are different, but the training foremen will still serve their country, not on the front lines, but behind the scenes. Tyson also says, “When you’re building the ship, you know fellow sailors will be on those ships, so I’m very proud to be here, putting together a quality product for the guys afloat.”
There are ten veterans in the six month program who are on track become foremen at Ingalls by late summer. Ingalls hopes that more veterans will be interested in their ‘Fast Track Foreman’ program to help them continue to build quality ships for U.S. Armed Forces.