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 Columbia 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 Matthew Inniss, a 2006 Arundel High School graduate, is assigned to the Navy’s U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters. 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.

Inniss is responsible for supplying message traffic of unsecure and secure communications while monitoring tactical environment.

“I really enjoy the comradery and the people that I work with,” said Inniss. “I learn a lot about the people around me. I get the opportunity to build relationships with these people who, often, become a family away from family.”

Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific in defense circles, means that Inniss is serving in a part of the world 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.

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% 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% of its ships and aircraft in the region. Officials say the Navy also will provide its most advanced warfighting platforms to the region, including missile defense-capable ships, submarines, reconnaissance aircraft and its newest surface warfare ships.

“There’s a lot of pride in Pearl Harbor,” said Inniss. “I feel proud to say that if we had to protect our country at a moment’s notice we are able to.”

While much has changed in 75 years, American sailors’ core attributes of toughness, initiative, accountability and integrity remain today. The lasting legacy of the heroism and determination exhibited on Dec. 7, 1941, is the heritage Inniss 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 Adm. Scott Swift, Commander, U.S. Pacific fleet. “The important work we do every day honors those who were here 75 years ago and is a testament to the enduring value of our navy’s mission.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class(SW) Brian T. Glunt is with the Navy Office of Community Outreach. He can be reached at navyoutreach@navy.mil.