PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A different type of welding happened at Ingalls Shipyard Thursday. It was part of a keel authentication ceremony for LHA 8, the Bougainville. This type of event is always special, not only for the ship but for the people building it.
Ingalls was decked out in patriotic colors as about 200 people watched the ceremony, steeped in Naval tradition dating back hundreds of years.
“This event is special because it really starts taking on life," said Kari Wilkinson, an Ingalls vice president. "You start seeing the ship come up from the ground. You start realizing seeing the fruits of the labor of all the folks that work here so hard every single day.”
The ship’s sponsor is Ellyn Dunford, the wife of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Her name was etched onto a steel plate to forever lie on the base of the ship’s hull. She paid tribute to the men and women building the Boogainville, named after a World War II campaign.
“These are the people that are going to make sure that our deployed shipmates have the best possible facilities, the best possible equipment to achieve their mission and that their families can sleep soundly at night knowing that their service member has the best possible," Dunford said.
It was also a day to remember for the welder chosen to have his skills put on display for the nation to see.
“It makes me feel real special, real special. It’s a good day here in the shipyard and I was proud to be part of this ceremony," Cedric Harmon said.
When this $3 billion ship is completed in five years and sets sail with sailors and Marines on board, it’s going to say something very special about U.S. military might, according to Wilkinson.
“This ship projects power. So it can bring gear and marines and tools to places they need to be, and the other things that’s probably underappreciated about these platforms is the medical facilities on board and their significance to humanitarian aid or missions.”
Those missions will now live on forever aboard this proud vessel.
Boogainville carries a crew of 600 sailors and can transport up to 1,500 Marines and equipment anywhere in the world they are needed.