Portmore native serves half a world away with the US Navy in Guam

By AMANDA RAE MORENO
Navy Office of Community Outreach

Monday, October 14, 2019

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A 2013 Math's Unlimited graduate and Portmore native builds and fights around the world as a member of a naval construction battalion centre located on the island of Guam.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Akilah Steele is a builder with the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11, better known as the Navy Seabees, based out of Gulfport, Mississippi.

A navy builder is responsible for construction and repair of wood, concrete and masonry structures.

Steele credits success in the navy to many of the lessons learned in Portmore.

“I learned that life is what you make of it,” said Steele. “It's not about someone's opinion of you — you can prove them wrong.”

The jobs of some of the Seabees today have remained unchanged since World War II, when the Seabees paved the 10,000-mile road to victory for the allies in the Pacific and in Europe.

Since 1942 Seabees have served in all American conflicts. They have also supported humanitarian efforts, using their construction skills to help communities around the world. They aid following earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

According to officials at the US Navy's Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, the ships, submarines, aircraft and navy personnel deployed to Guam are part of the world's largest fleet command and serve in a region critical to US national security. The US Pacific Fleet encompasses 100 million square miles — nearly half the Earth's surface — from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the west coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean. All told, there are more than 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 uniformed and civilian personnel serving in the Pacific.

“Here in Guam we have different battalions and there are different parts of the military here,” Steele said. “So I get a chance to work with different kinds of units and learn from them.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Steele is most proud of making rank and getting qualifications.

“I've been able to see so many different backgrounds and I have learned from them,” Steele said. “It was a personal achievement to be able to face each challenge. Now I can help the next person facing that challenge.”

Serving in the navy means Steele 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 defence strategy.

A key element of the navy that 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 per cent of the Earth's surface is covered by water; 80 per cent of the world's population lives close to a coast; and 90 per cent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities centre 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 modernisation are the requirements driving these priorities.”

As a member of one of the US Navy's most relied-upon assets, Steele and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the navy.

“Serving in the navy to me means overcoming,” Steele said. “You don't see female builders often, so I am showing everyone that I can do what they said I couldn't do. I get to prove people wrong and show them that I could do the same things they can do.”

 

The Navy Office of Community Outreach travels the globe to collect sailors' stories and distribute them to their hometown media.


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