Freedom, Shaped By Helen Gault

Trading her ballet slippers for steel-toed boots, Helen Gault retired from professional ballet and joined The Apprentice School at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division three years ago. Now, the same dedication and discipline used in dance is helping her learn non-destructive testing at the shipyard.

“At 18, I signed a contract with the Virginia Ballet Theatre,” she said. “We always had to have excellent attendance, and our discipline was top-notch. Here at the shipyard it’s that same work ethic.”

Along the shipyard’s 550 acres of waterfront, Gault inspects welds on aircraft carriers and submarines. In shops and on the ships, she uses calibrated ultrasonic testing machines to make sure welds meet the proper specifications. “Checking to make sure our calibration is correct is important,” she explained. “If we miss a rejectable discontinuity in the weld, then it could affect the structural integrity of the ship when it’s out at sea.”

And for Gault, accuracy isn’t just about her job. It’s about the final product and those that use it. “I’m proud to know that I contributed to the safety of the sailors who will be serving aboard these ships,” she said. “I’m glad I can contribute with my weld inspections to make sure that what’s going out there is the best quality available.”

Gault’s work at the shipyard connects her with her father, who passed away while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

“Defending our country and defending our freedom was important to him, and I think he’d be proud that I’m doing the same thing,” she said. “It’s definitely a great feeling to know that we have the same goal.”

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