PEARL HARBOR – As the nation pauses to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred 75 years ago on Dec. 7, 1941, the occasion has special meaning for a Bolingbrook native who is serving in the U.S. Navy in the very location that drew the United States into World War II.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Joe Lewicki, a 2013 Plainfield East High School graduate, is assigned to the Navy’s U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters.
Lewicki is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the auxiliary components aboard the submarine.
“I like that my job gives me the chance to get my hands dirty,” said Lewicki. “I am responsible for 90 percent of the boat so everyone comes to me with problems. Sometimes I get overworked but I love being able to fix the problems.”
Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific in defense circles, means that Lewicki is serving in a part of the world, the Pacific, that is taking on new importance in America’s national defense strategy.
Pearl Harbor itself is home to more than 19,000 U.S. Navy Sailors 11 surface ships, 19 nuclear-powered submarines and 19 aircraft.
According to Navy officials, the U.S. Pacific Fleet is the world’s largest fleet command, encompassing 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.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet consists of approximately 200 ships/submarines, nearly 1,100 aircraft, and more than 140,000 Sailors and civilians.
Although the world has changed greatly in the past 75 years, the Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades, and for good reason, Navy officials say. The Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population, many of the world’s largest and smallest economies, several of the world’s largest militaries, and many U.S. allies.
Accordingly, the Navy is basing approximately 60 percent of its ships and aircraft in the region.
Officials say the Navy will also provide its most advanced warfighting platforms to the region, including missile defense-capable ships; submarines; reconnaissance aircraft; and its newest surface warfare ships.
“Serving here during the 75th anniversary it’s important to remember those who lost their life during the attacks and honoring their memory”, said Lewicki. “I had four great-uncles serving here during the attacks. One of them served on the Arizona and they all survived, so it’s special serving here now.”
While much as changed in 75 years, American Sailors’ core attributes of toughness, initiative, accountability and integrity remain today. The last legacy of the heroism and determination exhibited on Dec. 7th, 1941 is the heritage Lewicki and other service members remain committed to live up to in the 21st Century.
“It’s important for those of us serving in Pearl Harbor today to remember the sacrifice of those who served before us,” said Admiral Scott Swift, Commander, U.S. Pacific fleet. “The important work we do everyday honors those who were here 75 years ago and is a testament to the enduring value of our navy’s mission.”