PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It's a big event for a big ship. Saturday, the Tripoli LHA 7 will be christened at Ingalls Shipbuilding, but Friday was all about the builders and those who helped make it happen.
Arlin Richard has worked on all the big ships since 1983, from steam powered to gas powered.
"What I build pushes the front end, drags the back end, and carries the top," Richard said with a smile.
The amphibious assault ship is among the biggest made at Ingalls. It's 844 feet long with a 106-foot beam and weighs 45,000 tons. It will carry more than 1,600 Marines to where they are needed.
"It makes me proud," Richard said. "And I know I've built something that will take care of the boys and women in harm's way."
Tripoli is Neira Hawkins' first ship. It sets a high standard.
"I know that I'm doing something for the country," Hawkins said. "I know that I've put my all into building the ship. So, I know that it'll be safe and ready to go."
With a big ship comes a big crowd. Preparations continue for the christening, where officials are expecting at least 2,200 people to attend.
"The shipbuilders, the men and women who built this ship, really take this as a special moment when the ship really kind of comes together and shows real life, at this point in time, in the construction of it," said Ingalls President Brian Cuccias.
The ship will be christened by Lynn Mabus, wife of Ray Mabus, former Mississippi governor and Secretary of the Navy. Her first impression was like that of most everyone else.
"Wow. That's a big ship. It's really big," Mabus said. "Mostly the fact that I can't believe that it was built by the hands of men. It was almost like it was built by the hands of God."
Kevin Meyers is the commanding officer.
"You see this over the horizon, you know we're serious," Myers said. "We're coming. We're coming for real."
He said the experience is humbling.
"Just to think that I was the little guy enlisted in the Navy in 1987, and now I get to command the ship and the crew. It's amazing."
Construction continues on the ship for another year with delivery expected by the end of 2018.
Commissioning is scheduled for some time in 2019.