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Diversity

Captain James R. Macaranas

Navy Leaders

Join us as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Sailors, past and present, and their important contributions to the defense of our nation.

Capt. James Macaranas, Naval Supply Systems Command

My father's journey is one of many that shaped the Navy's foundation of equal opportunity. Any success I enjoy today was made possible by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders like YNSN Macaranas and his generation; their legacy has been turned over to all of us serving today to ensure opportunities are afforded to everyone.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Navy?

A: I made the leap from Navy brat to Active Duty.

I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii where my dad, YNSN Francisco Macaranas, and mom Aida were stationed. In those early years I witnessed vestiges of World War II in the Pacific - bullet holes in the buildings, the USS Arizona Memorial, etc., and noticed my dad wearing the same uniform as the brave Sailors in those pictures from December 7, 1941. Every so often, he would go away and my mom would have her hands full with me complaining about it. Undaunted and mentally tough, she taught me that sometimes we have to make sacrifices in order to prevent more bullet holes and sunken ships. As I grew up and began to better understand what my dad did and how my mom was an equal partner in the sacrifice, I knew I wanted to follow in their tradition and do my part.

Q: Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you?

A: I've been lucky to serve with some fantastic role models including Command Master Chief Joe Schnurbusch and Captains Doug Borrebach, Kevin Henderson, and Jerry Twigg - all great mentors who could lead as well as tell a good sea story.

Nonetheless, it all started for me on the USS PYRO (AE 24). My first boss in the Navy was Lieutenant Toni Kasprzak, now a retired Captain. I was a brand new Ensign and admittedly, afraid of her. Her solution-oriented and relentless style didn't always go over well with the crew (and kept me awake wondering if I did everything I was supposed to do that day). However, I found that developing habits of excellence in her people made us more effective than we thought we could ever be. She propelled us into a high performance team and arguably, the best department on the ship. Twenty plus years later, when I'm in a pinch I will ask myself, "What would Lt. Kasprzak do?" and the problem is solved.
Photo collage of macaranas.


Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.

A: My third ship was the USS KEARSARGE (LHD 3) and I served as the Assistant Supply Officer.

Although I had been deployed several times before, our deployment in 2005 was particularly difficult for several reasons. During this time, I finally realized how much our families and loved ones mean to us. I would not have been able to complete that deployment without my wife Elizabeth's support and strength. She always spoke the truth, helped me see things from a different perspective, and ultimately enabled me to stay focused on finishing the job we were doing. No matter how experienced, independent, or hardened we think we are, our families are much more resilient. Considering what they endure and for the support they give us, we can never fully repay them. Serving to the best of our ability is truly made possible by family and those we love.

Q: Can you share a story about someone who has influenced or challenged you to become your best?

A: From day one, we learn as aspiring leaders that we must take care of our people. SKCM Jeff Tranovich, our department master chief on the USS Kearsarge lived that creed. He was an expert at his job, but his leadership and example elevated well beyond his assigned duties, particularly when it came to our Sailors. Master Chief Tranovich talked with and learned everything he could about everyone in our department, including TAD personnel. He wasn't just filling out an information sheet; he made it his mission to truly care for his Sailors, no matter the time of day, location, situation, etc. If that meant being with them for a difficult phone call home, going with them to an appointment, or anything in-between, he personally did it. I know there are former seaman recruits who are now chiefs and officers, there are families that are intact, and there are Sailors who are alive today because Master Chief Jeff Tranovich was there to help them through difficult times. He changed my approach to leadership and challenged me to do better. I know of no better leader in the Navy.

Q: May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. What does being an Asian American Pacific Islander leader in the Navy mean to you? Is there someone from this community that has influenced you, or who has a story that is interesting to you?

A: My father joined the Navy out of the Philippines in the 1960s.

When he enlisted, the Navy's rating structure limited what Philippine nationals could do, despite their talents and abilities. However, in 1971, the Navy changed and enabled Filipinos to serve in ratings other than steward. I am inspired by his will to break barriers and become a Yeoman and am doubly moved by the Navy's recognition of the need to lift restrictions and evolve. My father's journey is one of many that shaped the Navy's foundation of equal opportunity. Any success I enjoy today was made possible by Asian/Pacific Islanders like YNSN Macaranas and his generation; their legacy has been turned over to all of us serving today to ensure opportunities are afforded to everyone. It doesn't happen on its own; we must all be partners in this endeavor of inclusion to keep our Navy strong. YNSN Macaranas went on to serve in the Navy for 26 years, retiring as a Navy Chief.