USS Beloit christening to be momentous day

USS Beloit christening to be momentous day Main Photo

6 May 2022

MARINETTE, Wis.— Beloit will have a special day in its long history come Saturday, May 7, when the USS Beloit is christened and will begin its first voyages.

The U.S. Navy ship will be christened during a ceremony at Fincantieri Marinette Marine with city officials, area veterans and state and national dignitaries expected to attend.

Fairbanks Morse Defense, a main defense contractor based in Beloit, has built engines for naval vessels for the U.S. Navy for nearly 100 years, and because of this long-standing relationship with the Beloit manufacturer and the community of Beloit, it was decided to name the newest naval vessel after the community of Beloit.

Fairbanks Morse Defense has been a contractor for naval defense customers for more than 100 years, The company has been a principal supplier of reliable power systems, parts, and aftermarket services to the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, and the Canadian Coast Guard.

After two years of construction and preparation, the first steps are being taken to set the new ship out to sea. Construction on the ship began July 22, 2020. On the same day, the keel laying ceremony took place.

The USS Beloit is a Freedom class ship, littoral combat ship (LCS 29). This ship is 387 feet long and has a beam length of 57.4 feet. The USS Beloit can travel at a speed of 40 knots. The USS Beloit is the 15th Fredom-variant LCS to be built.

LCS is designed to complete close-to-shore missions and is a growing and relevant part of the Navy’s fleet, according to a Lockheed Martin spokesperson. Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine were the two companies commissioned to construct the USS Beloit.

Retired U.S. Army Reserve Major General Marcia Anderson, who grew up in Beloit, was named the ship’s sponsor in 2018 by Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer. Anderson was the first African-American woman to rise to the rank of major general in the United States Army Reserve. Anderson said she still considers Beloit home and she is honored to be the sponsor of the new naval vessel.

Anderson will speak at the event. Also in attendance will be Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther, other Beloit City Council members, officials from Fairbanks Morse Defense, state and national legislators, area veterans and more.

As part of the ceremony, there will be a mast-stepping ceremony, when “challenge coins” and other items will be placed in the mast of the ship. The City of Beloit asked four local artists who are veterans or have other ties to the military to design the city’s Challenge Coin. The artists are Tom West, Abigail Champeny-Johns, Miguel Angel Olivera and Aaron Nilson.

Following the christening ceremony and launch on Saturday, the USS Beloit, will go through testing and ship builder’s sea trials to verify construction completion, according to a Lockheed Martin spokesperson. After about two years, a commencement ceremony will be held for the USS Beloit. Current plans are for the commencement ceremony to take place in Green Bay.

Two buses have been chartered by VetsRoll to transport about 30 area war veterans to the christening ceremony on Saturday. The effort to transport veterans to the ceremony was made possible due to local donations. Breakfast and lunch for the veterans have been donated by local businesses.

VetsRoll is a non-profit effort founded by Mark and John Finnegan which takes area war veterans to Washington, D.C. each year to view the war memorials. The first trip to Washington, D.C. was in 2010.

“The City of Beloit has a proud history of supporting the Navy and the U.S. military. Many of Beloit’s community members have selflessly served in our Armed Forces and companies like Fairbanks Morse that call the city home have long supported our service members to ensure they can safely and successfully complete their missions,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in a written statement. “I was honored to champion this effort to recognize Beloit’s support of the U.S. Navy and our national defense. The naming of a Navy ship is a significant honor steeped in tradition, and I am thrilled for Beloit to get the recognition it has earned.”

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