Senator Cantwell at Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton

By:  Bellamy Pailthorp
(KPLU) - US Senator Maria Cantwell will meet with small
business leaders later today (Wednesday) in Seattle - to talk about federal
assistance and the economic recovery. Yesterday, she examined another source of
jobs -- in Bremerton. She took a tour of the naval shipyard there and climbed to
the bridge of the USS Stennis.

USS John C. Stennis is home-ported in Bremerton - and after more two years
mostly at sea, it's time for major planned maintenance. There are now forklifts
and trailers full of tools on the flight deck where aircraft land during
deployments and training.

Standing on the Stennis' pier next to the
carrier, Rear Admiral Joe Aucoin eagerly awaited Senator Cantwell's arrival; he
says it's a chance for him to showcase the thousands of navy people and their
civilian co-workers in the shipyard.

"This ship literally has a town on
board, with the number of people and how hard they work, even when they're back
in port, and all the work that's required to keep a vessel around for 50 years

The ship is only about 15 years old. It has to last another 35 -- and
it has a nuclear reactor on board. "So we want to make sure we're keeping that
in safe working condition and we're not endangering the environment," Aucoin

As the Senator climbs up the first level of the Captain's ladder, a
loudspeaker announces her arrival.

(Sound of Cantwell's arrival "Nice to
meet you gentlemen ")

And then she climbs up 9 levels more to the bridge
- where Commanding Officer Captain Joe Kuzmick shows her the view - and praises
the workforce in Bremerton. He says the Navy is spending $137 million dollars on
the maintenance that's being carried out on the Stennis over the next 6 months.
He agrees with the Senator that that adds up to a whole lot of jobs.

only that, it's jobs for particularly skilled workers and a work force that
lends a lot to the community and also provides a really invaluable service to
the navy," he says, "because these folks don't grow on trees. Nuclear welders
are hard to come by. And so it's great that we have a nice steady stream of work
for them to do."

Back on the pier, outside the carrier, Senator Cantwell
reiterats her impression of the shipyard and the new apprenticeship program she
observed earlier in the day. A recent policy change is allowing hundreds of
local veterans to continue their service as civilians in the shipyards and get
college credit for doing so.

"The fact that that program can use the GI
Bill and get people to be trained and skilled in this area is, you know, it's

She says they're getting great training as mechanical engineers
and welders who work on nuclear systems - and their work will be needed in the
future, not just on ships.