SAN DIEGO – A Downey native and 2007 Downey High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Portland, one of the Navy’s newest and most advanced amphibious ships.
Chief Petty Officer Stephanie McKnight is a boatswain's mate aboard the amphibious transport dock operating out of San Diego. A Navy boatswain's mate is responsible for painting, preservation and beautification of the ship.
McKnight credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Downey.
“I was taught hard work and dedication,” said McKnight. “I use to build stuff with my dad and we remodeled a lot. All of it came into play for me when I got here. I really learned how to stay committed to finishing a project the right way.”
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 McKnight 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, McKnight is most proud of making chief petty officer.
“This has been one of my biggest successes so far,” said McKnight. “I overcame my trials and tribulations. I was undesginated for four years before I picked up boatswain’s mate. I am a story for others who are undesginated. I remind them that as long as they don’t give up, they will make it.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for McKnight, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. McKnight is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My grandfather served in the Navy,” said McKnight. “He was a hard worker. He was the reason we remodeled all the time. He knew how to do so much because of the Navy. It has made me more proud to serve because of him.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, McKnight 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 is a sense of pride and self worth,” McKnight added. “It shows someone else that they can be successful. As long as I can help the junior sailors be where they want to be, I am proud. There is a bigger purpose when serving.”
By Kayla Turnbow, Navy Office of Community Outreach