Last month, Admiral Michelle Howard, vice chief of naval operations, toured Milwaukee Valve’s foundry and manufacturing plant in Prairie du Sac, Wis., in conjunction with the commissioning ceremony for USS Milwaukee (LCS5).

Milwaukee Valve is the United States Navy’s largest supplier of bronze valves, and its products have been installed on U.S. Navy ships for the past 50 years. More than 3,000 Milwaukee Valve products are found on the USS Milwaukee, which is a littoral combat ship. The littoral combat ship (LCS) is a new class of surface vessels intended for operations close to shore by the Navy.

“I was reading an article on all the great work that’s done up here and said ‘If I’m ever in Wisconsin, I want to see where these valves are made,’” said Howard. “You wouldn’t believe that a land-locked state in the middle of the country would have such a strong tie to the Navy.”

Admiral Howard is the first African-American and the first woman to hold the post of vice chief of naval operations. She is the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, USS Rushmore. In 2006, she was selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), making her the first admiral selected from the U.S. Naval Academy class of 1982 and the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy selected for flag rank. On July 1, 2014, Howard became the first woman to become a four-star admiral.

In her remarks to the Milwaukee Valve employees, Howard said that she wanted to emphasize the importance of their jobs in keeping ships at sea so they can continue to defend the nation. In addition to providing valves to USS Milwaukee, Milwaukee Valve supplies more than 12,000 valves to aircraft carriers, such as the new USS Gerald R. Ford class carriers, which will enter service in March, 2016.

“We’re extremely proud to have Admiral Howard visit us today,” said Diane Seder, Milwaukee Valve’s chairman of the board. “The Marine and Navy business is an extremely important part of our business, so we are pleased that she wanted to come see what we do.”

“The shipbuilding industry is alive and well and we need support from our congressional members to keep building ships to defend this great country,” said Rick Giannini, president and CEO of Milwaukee Valve. Giannini is also the chairman of the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition (ACIBC). The coalition represents approximately 400 businesses that supply components and services for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. ACIBC seeks to preserve the strength of the aircraft carrier force and promote the value of the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base as a vital part of the nation’s overall defense structure.