MARINETTE, Wis. -- A bit of Sioux City officially became part of the future U.S. Navy ship bearing its name during a traditional mast stepping ceremony Friday.
A small stainless steel canister containing coins, patches and other tokens representing Sioux City, the ship's sponsor and the Navy, was welded under the USS Sioux City's radar mast, making it a permanent part of the ship.
"What a fabulous day. I appreciate all the hard work by the men and women from the Marinette shipyard and the crew of the future USS Sioux City. Today’s ceremony is one more important step in the development of the mighty warship USS Sioux City," said Mary Winnefeld, the ship's sponsor and the wife of James Winnefeld, a retired admiral and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Friday's ceremony, which took place at the Marinette, Wisconsin, shipyard where the USS Sioux City was built, launched and tested, is the latest step toward the ship's commissioning. The ship completed acceptance trials in May and awaits its delivery to the Navy. A commissioning date has yet to be set, but it's expected to be this fall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
"It was a great day for our sponsor, Mrs. Winnefeld, the ship's captain, Randy Malone, the entire crew and the Sioux City community. I was proud to be present with Eldon Roth and Brian Miller, and we look forward to the announcement of a commissioning date," Siouxland Chamber of Commerce president Chris McGowan said.
Roth, co-founder of Dakota Dunes-based Beef Products. Inc., has contributed $100,000 to the committee organizing the commissioning celebration. Miller is the retired commander of the Sioux City-based 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard.
The mast stepping ceremony is a naval tradition that dates back to Roman times, when coins were placed under the mast of a new ship so that if the crew were to die at sea, they could pay the mythical ferryman to transport them across the River Styx and into the afterlife. In more recent times, the placing of tokens in the mast is a sign of good luck to the crew.
During a ceremony prior to the ship's christening in January 2016, Sioux City leaders provided several coins that were placed inside the canister that was welded into place Friday. Sioux City-related items include a coin bearing an image of City Hall, commander's coins from the 185th Air Refueling Wing and the 113th Cavalry, Iowa National Guard, as well as a baseball card bearing the picture of Sioux City native and Medal of Honor recipient, the late Col. Bud Day. Other items included lapel pins from Sioux City's colleges and hospitals, a coin from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and patches from the Sioux City police and fire departments.
Winnefeld, who christened the ship, presented a guardian angel pin and a pin depicting a dove and an olive branch to signify peace. The canister also contains coins and items from the Navy and the ship's future crew members.
The USS Sioux City is the 11th in the class of littoral combat ships, which are designed to operate in shallower water close to shorelines. The ship will have a 98-person crew and be used for maritime security throughout the world.