GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - At nearly 700-feet long, 25,000 tons and more $1.5 billion, the newest warship in the San Antonio class will soon be christened at Ingalls shipyard.
Portland's sponsor, Bonnie Amos, joined the president of Ingalls and the ship's prospective commander at Friday "mast stepping" ceremony.
Shadow boxes with coins, photos and personal mementos will be placed permanently aboard Portland; which is built to transport and land hundreds of U.S. Marines anywhere in the world.
"The best begins right here when they lay the keel, and it continues from there," said Amos. "I have never seen such patriotic, warm, caring people who really do love their job," said Amos.
Among the hundreds of workers who helped build the vessel from tons of steel and cable and components, many are veterans; including Stacy Eubanks.
"It has meant a lot to me. I'm ex-military, retired, 24 years," said Eubanks. "It's always a good feeling to build a ship for the Navy that's going to go out and protect our freedom from here on out."
A special guest at the christening is Ted Waller. He served on a ship named Portland back in World War II. Additionally, Saturday happens to be his 93rd birthday.
"I just can't get over the difference between it and the ship I was on. It's so much bigger and doesn't even look like a ship to me," said Waller.
The prospective commanding officer of Portland looks forward to the challenge of getting underway.
"Navy has given me a bunch of crew already and we're going to build up to about 350 to 380 crew members to sail this ship away. That is quite a task in the next year ahead," said Capt. Jeremy Hill.
The Portland christening ceremony begins at 10 o'clock Saturday morning. The keynote speaker is Major General Christopher Owens, the director of the Navy's expeditionary warfare division.