MARINETTE, Wis. (WFRV) - The laying of the keel is a naval tradition that marks the first step in bringing a ship to life.
"This is a great time for shipbuilders because this is really the first piece of the ship that gets put together and gets set down," explained Chuck Goddard, Marinette Marine President and CEO.
The USS Milwaukee, also known as LCS 5, is the third ship being built at Marinette Marine as part of the company's contract with the Navy.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Senator Herb Kohl left their marks on the keel. The piece of steel will soon become part of the ship. Both politicians played key roles in bringing the big contract to Marinette.
"It's great for the entire state and I think it's something that unites the state," explained Barrett. "I think all sectors of the state can benefit at the same time."
"It's a great accomplishment for them and for all of us that have made it happen," added Sen. Kohl.
"This program is so critical to our nation's defense and our program and what this shipyard is doing here is just absolutely incredible," said Capt. Jeffrey Riedel, a program manager with the navy.
Under the contract, Marinette Marine will build 10 Littoral Combat Ships. Chuck Goddard said each one is slightly different and takes a lot of tedious work. But with anything, he said practice makes perfect.
"That's all part of coming down the learning curve and getting more efficient in how we build these," said Goddard.
Company leaders expect the USS Milwaukee to be ready and delivered to the Navy in 2014.