Anchors aweigh: USS Beloit launched
8 May 2022
MARINETTE—Saturday morning, only an instant after the four Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) triggermen unleashed Newton’s Laws of Motion, a momentum driven by gravity and the tremendous culmination of history, heritage, people and collaboration sent the 388-foot USS Beloit into the Menominee River. The ship’s splashdown displaced upwards of 3,400 tons of water, uplifting a prodigious wave and marking the long-awaited and official christening and launch of the Navy’s newest littoral combat ship (LCS 29).
“Nothing I can say today can express how honored I am to be the sponsor of this ship,” said retired Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson.
Anderson, a Beloit native, will serve as the ship’s sponsor. Traditionally named by the Secretary of the Navy, a Navy ship sponsor represents a great honor and an important role as the sponsor takes part in many of the milestones of the life of a ship.
In 2011, Anderson became the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of major general in the U.S. Army Reserve.
During her speech Saturday during the christening of the USS Beloit, she asked anyone among those gathered for the ceremony in Building 10 at the Marinette Marine shipyard to stand if they served in the U.S. military or if any of their family members had served. Then, after a short pause to consider the majority of the hundreds of people attending the ceremony who were standing, she made an important acknowledgement.
“99% of this room just stood,” Anderson observed. “That is what makes us … the envy of other nations around the world: dedication to duty and willingness to sacrifice.”
And in a lot of ways, that is what the name Beloit exemplifies.
The USS Beloit was built by Lockheed Martin at the FMM shipyard. From the thrum of its propulsion systems, built by Beloit-base Fairbanks Morse Defense, to the challenge coins sealed within its mast-stepping box (akin to shipboard time capsule) as well as the markings on its hull, the USS Beloit (LCS 29) reverberates with the the city’s industrious history and community ties to U.S. Navy and military heritage.
The stunning moment of Saturday’s Launch in Marinette embodied several years of community anticipation in Beloit. Even more, it lent a great nod to the rich legacy of support, respect and partnership between the people of Beloit, the city’s industry, the U.S. Navy and the City of Marinette.
FMM Chief Executive Officer Mark Vandroff recognized the immutable value in molding those kinds of strong relationships between cities and communities of the ship-building industry in Marinette and the defense supplier of Fairbanks Morse in Beloit.
“We rely on our partners … we cannot be successful without our partnerships,” he said. “Even though Beloit and Marinette are on opposite sides of the state of Wisconsin … it is good to have two strong and aggressive communities who are proud to contribute to our nation’s military … but all those partnerships … need one final (ingredient). (They) need people ... people to make us all come together.”
“Our community takes great pride in being able to celebrate this launch,” said Sarah Lock, Beloit’s director of strategic communications. “(The people of Beloit) have really supported the Navy during armed conflicts as well as in times of peace, especially through the work that has been done at Fairbanks Morse Defense (FMD).”
Headquartered in Beloit, for over 100 years FMD’s reputation for building, maintaining and servicing reliable naval power and propulsion systems stands second to none and helps the Navy maximize mission confidence. Additionally, the unwavering commitment of the company’s employees to their craft has served as a critical pillar, bolstering naval operations around the world. To wit, in addition to many other Navy ships, FMD supplied the main propulsion system engines that will drive the USS Beloit and its sailors to their future destinations and, more importantly, eventually return them home.
“We believe that every vessel and sailor in the U.S. fleet deserves our unwavering respect and support,” said George Whittier, FMD’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Consequently, for Whittier, Saturday’s ceremony reflected the company’s dynamic success and served as a wellspring of pride for the entire Beloit community.
“The USS Beloit is particularly meaningful for us because it serves as an extraordinary recognition of the dedication and sacrifices made for our nation by the entire community, including our Veterans, their families, and FMD’s experienced engineers and technicians who are so deeply committed to supporting our country’s critical naval operations,” he said. “The entire community is extremely proud to have a Navy vessel named after the City … It was an honor to be here and represent Fairbanks Morse … so it is just really powerful and really emotional. It really puts tears in your eyes.”