MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Sparks for heavy metal in a first employment experience ignited a nearly half-century career for one Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina, employee.
With nearly 40 years welding, Bobby Walker, a welder and fabricator at the Navy Boat Docks, has spent almost 30 years working for the federal government in various places around the country.
Walker has worked at MCAS Cherry Point for nearly 15 years, and was one of the first civilians hired at the Watercraft Support Unit in 2005, remaining a steady presence as dozens of Sailors have cycled in and out of this duty station.
Walker said when his wife received orders to Cherry Point he initially chose to forego being a part of the military community as a spouse, as employment opportunities for welders seemed scarce.
“My wife was in the Navy for 24 years and when she first got stationed here there was nothing for me to do,” he said. “So I stayed back in [Washington state], working at General Dynamics until I got a call from a buddy of mine, saying they were starting a new unit at the boat docks and wanted to see if I was interested.”
As the only welder at the Navy Boat Docks, Walker works on a range of projects such as rebuilding boats, adding compartments and railings, and making specialty tools to remove engine parts.
Walker said that he enjoys being the only welder at the docks because he likes being able to help everyone there when they need him.
Walker doesn’t only perform work on the air station. He also frequently travels to Bombing Target-11, repairing and welding any damage to the transport boats there. Walker can also be found working alongside the engine mechanics at the Navy Boat Docks, doing what he can to help while learning new skills in the process.
“It’s pretty nice here, everyone gets along really well,” he said. “I enjoy being able to help and learn from all the guys here.”
Walker previously worked side-by-side with Sailors as a pipe welder at Naval Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington, working on Trident nuclear submarines earlier in his career.
He said it was nice to be able to work with the younger Sailors there, teaching them things they hadn’t necessarily learned in their schoolhouse training.
He said his first job at a rental center is where he first learned how to weld. That experience sparked a lifelong passion, which led to numerous jobs with private companies that allowed him the opportunity to learn from and teach others.
Walker has worked on numerous high-profile and difficult projects throughout his 40-year career which include work on two aircraft carriers — USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Walker, at 56 years old, has his sights set on the next part of his life, and with roughly two years to go until retirement, he is getting all of his welds lined up to spend time with his grandchildren in Alabama.
“I’m going to miss all of the people I work with here,” he said. “I’ve met some amazing friends throughout the years, but it’s important to be close to family.”