Ryan Akins

Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Akins, from Henderson, applies lubricant onto an M240 machine gun during an August small arms shoot onboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor. Akins, a gunner’s mate, joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from Southern Vance High School and East Carolina University. His ship is operating in the Pacific Ocean as part of the U.S 7th Fleet.

HENDERSON — Not so many years ago, Ryan Akins was catching passes from his brother Jarrell for the Southern Vance High School Raiders. And scoring points for the Raiders’ basketball team. And winning the triple jump in track.

Now he is using his multiple talents for the U.S. Navy.

He is officially Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Akins, serving aboard the USS Pearl Harbor.

Akins graduated from Southern Vance in 2005, earned a degree from East Carolina University in 2009 and then joined the Navy.

A news release by the Navy Office Of Community Outreach said Akins uses the skills and values he learned growing up in Henderson to succeed in the military.

“I learned to be versatile,” Akins said. “I also learned how to adapt to different situations.”

Akins serves as a gunner’s mate on the USS Pearl Harbor, a warship that transports and launches marines from sea to shore as part of amphibious assault operations. It is 610 feet long — more than twice the length of a football field — 84 feet wide and weighs more than 16,000 tons. It is powered by four diesel engines that can push the ship through the water in excess of 25 mph.

Akins is positively remembered by his classmates. Wykia Macon, now the 4-H youth development agent with Vance County Cooperative Extension Service, remembers him as an “all-around student” who was in honors classes with her.

Another former classmate, Monique Colvin, knew Akins well. “He was my first date,” she said.

She described him as “studious,” “reserved” and “extremely quiet,” and said you knew what kind of person he was by his demeanor, not necessarily by what he said.

Akins has continued his education while serving in the Navy. He has met Expeditionary qualifications, which signify that a sailor is operationally competent and has acquired the knowledge necessary to understand combat and mission effectiveness.

The news release emphasizes the importance of the team Akins now serves, as the U.S. focuses on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Akins knows he is part of a service tradition that provides unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance.

“Serving in the Navy means being a team player and having courage,” Akins said.