Petty Officer 2nd Class Sierra Lewis, a native of Hemingway, graduated college with a degree in integrated marketing communications, but didn’t think there would be a good fit for her skills back at home. She said she had an aunt who retired from the U.S. Navy and recommended service, so she decided to go for it.
Now, five years later and half a world away at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Lewis serves aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, patrolling one of the world’s busiest maritime regions as part of the leading-edge of U.S. 7th Fleet.
“It’s my first ship and I’m ready to go on deployment,” Lewis said. “I love the people I work with, that’s what makes the place.”
Lewis, a 2009 graduate of Hemingway High School, is a personnel specialist aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, one of several in its class forward-deployed to the region.
“All pay, benefits and entitlement needs for everyone stationed aboard the ship, they come to us,” said Lewis.
Lewis credits part of her success in the Navy to some of the lessons she learned in Hemingway.
“Be patient with people,” she said. “You never know what someone might be going through on a day-to-day basis. I’m still learning that daily.”
U.S. 7th Fleet spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South. U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50-70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.
“It’s my second tour here,” Lewis said. “I love the culture. There’s a lot to do, the people are friendly, and it’s really really busy, but I don’t mind.”
With more than 50 percent of the world’s shipping tonnage and a third of the world’s crude oil passing through the region, the United States has historic and enduring interests in this part of the world. The Navy’s presence in Yokosuka is part of that long-standing commitment.
“The Navy is forward-deployed to provide security and strengthen relationships in a free and open Indo-Pacific. It’s not just the ships and aircraft that have shown up to prevent conflict and promote peace,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. “It is, and will continue to be our people who define the role our Navy plays around the world. People who’ve made a choice, and have the will and strength of character to make a difference.”
Destroyers are warships that provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. They are 510 feet long and armed with tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, Standard Missile-3 and newer variants of the SM missile family, advanced gun systems and close-in gun systems.
Destroyers are deployed globally and can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, or amphibious readiness groups. Their presence helps the Navy control the sea. Sea control is the precondition for everything else the Navy does. It cannot project power, secure the commons, deter aggression, or assure allies without the ability to control the seas when and where desired.
John S. McCain has anti-aircraft capability armed with long range missiles intended for air defense to counter the threat to friendly forces posed by manned aircraft, anti-ship, cruise and tactical ballistic missiles.
Serving in the Navy means Lewis is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
There are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career. Lewis is most proud of her performance at her last command, where she helped the entire Carrier Air Wing 5 switch to a new homeport.
“We changed homeports while on deployment, and that meant the moving of families and everything that goes along with it, and we did it flawlessly. I’m very, very proud of that,” said Lewis.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Lewis and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“There’s a whole world out there for you to see,” Lewis said. “Try to get out and experience things for yourself. There’s chances to travel and to learn more about yourself. The possibilities are endless, but you have to apply yourself.”