SAN DIEGO, CA - Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Lewis is a machinist's mate aboard the amphibious transport dock operating out of San Diego. A Navy machinist's mate is responsible for mechanical engineering on diesel engines, hydraulics, elevator machinery, and air conditioning units for the ship.

Lewis an Orange, New Jersey native and 2008 Irvington High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Portland, one of the Navy’s newest and most advanced amphibious ships.

Lewis credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Orange.

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“I was taught to respect those in leadership roles despite their age,” said Lewis. “You will meet some people that may be younger than you, but respect still goes a long way. I also try to put God first.” 

Commissioned in 2017, Portland is designed to deliver Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, 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. 

Being stationed in San Diego, the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet, means Lewis is playing an important part in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“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.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Portland. More than 400 men and women make up the ship's crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 700 Marines can be embarked. Portland is capable of transporting Marines and landing them where they are needed via helicopters, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and landing craft.

These amphibious transport dock ships support sea-to-shore assaults, special operations or other warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups. Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

“The current and future success of USS Portland will be due to the hard work and dedication from each member of the crew,” said Capt. Tony Rodriguez, commanding officer of USS Portland. “Every sailor knows their role and purpose within the ship. By maintaining high standards and sound shipboard operating procedures we can ensure we are ready to answer when the nation calls.” 

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Lewis is most proud of being meritoriously promoted to second class petty officer.

“Three words were embedded into us in boot camp, honor, courage and commitment,” said Lewis. “That means doing the right thing when no is looking. Integrity that you put into your job will eventually be rewarded. I had no knowledge I was being considered, but it goes to show that your leadership is always watching you.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Lewis and other Portland sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nations needs.

“Serving in the Navy means that I am part of a bigger picture,” Lewis added. “We protect people from foreign and domestic terrorists. There are comic books about superheroes and in the Navy, that’s really what we are. Less than one percent of people in our country serve. We get to affect people, not only now, but future generations.”