EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE—A small, unassuming plaque situated on the desk at the entrance to the Fincantieri Marinette Marine Tech Center conveys some profound words attributed to the founder of the American Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford:
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
In many ways, those words reflect the leadership, employees and the workmanship instilled with each weld, rivet and contract secured in the construction of those giant marvels of technology the shipyard builds for the United States Navy in its mission to protect and defend the nation.
Tuesday, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Michael Gilday expressed many similar sentiments about FMM and its employees in a visit to the shipyard.
“This was an extremely productive, useful and, honestly, uplifting visit for me,” Gilday said. “The biggest takeaway for me during my visit is, really, the people.”
The visit provided Gilday his first opportunity as CNO to tour the shipyard and gain a firsthand assessment of the FMM team and its progress toward the necessary foundational work as FMM readies itself for construction of the Navy’s FFG Constellation Class Frigate.
The Navy awarded FMM the multi-billion dollar frigate contract April 30 last year. The contract includes the procurement of 20 guided-missile frigates over the next several years.
With each ship costing approximately $940 million, the vessels will serve as multi-mission, small surface combatant ships with complex technology capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, antisubmarine warfare and electromagnetic warfare operations.
According to FMM Chief Executive Officer Jan Allman, shipyard workers aim to begin cutting steel for the first frigates later this year. Additionally, she expressed much encouragement in the more $200 million shipyard capital expansion projects currently underway in Wisconsin. In addition to improvements to various shipyard buildings to enable them to facilitate the fabrication of the new frigates, the capital expansion includes the largest ship lift in the nation. The new lift will replace the dramatic splash of side launches into the Menominee River, which draws many area spectators Instead the lift will gently lower ships into the water.
Shipyard expansion not only includes the construction of new equipment and facilities but also the growth of the FMM workforce, a significant benefit as the nation emerges from the pandemic and the economic hardships it produced.
“For me, it’s very rewarding being in the state of Wisconsin,” Allman said. “And to be able to support Wisconsinites as well as Michigan (residents) … We are proud to be able to offer jobs where other places are not.”
She added that the shipyard is currently searching for new workers to join the force.
The admiral also recognized the time and effort that FMM’s employees put toward the kind of discipline and awareness that helps maintain the productivity and safety of shipyard employees.
“The workforce has been here day in and day out through the pandemic,” Gilday said. “They are dedicated and also very innovative. You get a feeling that these are patriots that … love what they are doing, are proud of what they are doing and they are proud of the (U.S.) Navy and the (U.S.A) … The production line—that conveyor belt of ships—continues to roll. It just says a lot about, not only the talent that you have here, but the potential for further growth.”
Allman added that such resolute dedication serves as a testimony of the people of FMM and their successful manufacture of products that serve and protect the Navy and the nation.
“I really have to say, it’s a tribute to our workforce (that), in the history of our (shipyard), we’ve never shut down, no matter what has faced against us,” she said.
According to Gilday, the nation’s leadership feels that China represents a strategic competitor facing the U.S. Navy and nation. For that reason, he believes that the U.S. still needs a “bigger and more capable Navy.”
“And it is shipyards like this one that are going to get us there,” he said. “(FMM) has a long history of producing world-class ships and world-class warship for the United States Navy.”
After the Admiral’s tour, Allman expressed appreciation for the business that the U.S. Navy continues to provide FMM, which has kept the shipyard’s workforce active and productive.
“That is the legacy that we leave this yard ... that, for many years to come, we have product to build and stability for this local community,” she said.
ABOUT ADMIRAL GILDAY
Prior to his current role as the 32nd Chief of Naval Operations to which he posted in 2019, Admiral Gilday, native of Lowell, Massachusetts and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, earned a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School and the National War College.
He has extensive deployment and leadership experience, which includes serving on various Navy vessels, and commanded the destroyers, USS Higgins (DDG 76) and USS Benfold (DDG 65). Additionally, he commanded Destroyer Squadron 7, serving as sea combat commander for the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. As a flag officer, he served as commander Carrier Strike Group 8 embarked aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, and as commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S 10th Fleet.
He is also the recipient of numerous awards that include the Bronze Star, Combat Action Ribbon, Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and others.