Coast Guard Yard Tradesman Follows Family's Path


When Walter Brooks comes to work each day, he steps in the footprints of his great-grandfather, grandfather and father as he walks to the waterfront at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Md. Brooks, a shipfitter and welder, is a fourth generation tradesman and has a family’s legacy at the 113-year-old shipyard.

Founded in 1899, the Yard is the Coast Guard’s only shipbuilding and major repair facility. The Yard is the Coast Guard’s largest industrial facility and is responsible for construction, repairs and renovations of the Coast Guard’s surface fleet and aids to navigation, as well as repairing and manufacturing a wide range of marine parts and equipment. The Yard quite literally keeps the fleet afloat.

The Yard also serves as host facility for Surface Forces Logistics Center, Sector Baltimore and Station Curtis Bay. Additionally, the Yard is homeport for Coast Guard cutters James Rankin, Sledge and Chock.

With Yard-employed family members on both his mother’s and father’s side, Brooks’ story spans 87 years and begins with his great-grandfather Charles Smith, a woodworker, who began his Yard career in the late 1920s and retired with more than 30 years of service. Brooks’ grandfather, Junior Walter Cook, a welder, followed in 1958 and retired in 1988. Brooks’ father, George, started as a mechanic at the Yard and retired with 36 years of service in 2004.

Walter Brooks never questioned where his career would take him when he followed in his family’s path and became a worker at the Yard in 1990. While he briefly separated from federal service a few years later, he returned back to the shipbuilding facility and is now an 18-year Yard veteran.

“Walter works in the Yard’s Structural Shop, and this Shop is responsible for ship construction and hull repairs that keep ships afloat. Walter is an employee who can be trusted and counted on to get this important job done right the first time,” said Charles Zerbe, the Yard’s production manager.

Brooks continues to support the Coast Guard fleet and recently took on a new role at the Yard as president of the Yard’s Baltimore Area Metal Trades Council. In his role, Brooks is an advocate for the Yard’s workers and represents the workforce in matters of employees’ rights to organize, bargain collectively, resolve disputes and work safely.

Brooks is one of the Yard’s 403 civilian wage-grade employees who represent the variety of marine trades required to service the Coast Guard fleet. The Yard also has 107 civilian support personnel and 67 military members on board.

“Walter Brooks is a great example of the dedicated and experienced Yard professionals who, for generations, have played a critical role in keeping the Coast Guard’s surface fleet Semper Paratus. It’s unique individuals like Walter who understand the importance of their workmanship supporting Coast Guard missions,” said Capt. Richard Murphy, commanding officer of the Yard.

Thank you to the Brooks family and the generations of families who have worked at the Yard. Your contributions are immeasurable as every member of the Yard, past and present, contributes to the missions of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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