Dr. George Kailiwai III
Join us as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Sailors, past and present, and their important contributions to the defense of our nation.
As an Asian American and Pacific Islander, it's important that members of this community have role models and mentors who look like them, have similar backgrounds as them, and understand the challenges that they may be facing to make them better individuals and employees of the Department of Defense.
Q: Why did you decide to join the Department of Defense?
A: I decided to join the Department of Defense (DoD) because of my intense belief in the Constitution of the United States and my desire to defend its ideals and the way of life it makes possible for all of us. My father was a native Hawaiian born and raised in Kona, Hawaii. He enlisted into the United States Army in February 1945 and served in the US Army and US Air Force for twenty-five years. He instilled the principles of the US Constitution into me early in my life which motivated me to seek an appointment to the USAF Academy, serve twenty-five years on active duty then begin a second career as a senior executive beginning in 2003 first with the USAF and now with the US Navy.
Q: Who are the role models or mentors that have influenced you, or helped guide you?
A: My father was my first role model. He was also my coach for all the sports I played leading up to high school. After graduating from the USAF Academy as a Second Lieutenant, I met then Captain Dick Reynolds, a B-1 bomber test pilot. Throughout my career, our paths crossed, and in 2000, Maj Gen Dick Reynolds selected me as the first non-rated Commandant of the USAF Test Pilot School. He was a tremendous mentor for twenty-two years who took an interest in me as a person, officer and leader. Since then, as a member of the Senior Executive Service Corps and now in my current position, I've been blessed with "going to leadership school" every day when I'm given the opportunity to observe and interact with the many USPACOM Combatant Commanders (CCDRs) I've been privileged to serve. These commanders include ADM (Ret.) Bob Willard, ADM (Ret.) Tim Keating, ADM (Ret.) Sam Locklear and ADM Harry Harris.
Q: Which past assignments are the most memorable to you, and why?
A: I've had two Command assignments and I would put those at the top of the list. It's truly an honor to serve as a Commander. However, a close second is my current assignment as the Director, Resources and Assessment (J8), USPACOM. I'm surrounded by a team of high performing, results-driven, and extremely talented professionals.
Q: Can you share a story about someone who has influenced or challenged you to become your best?
A: My parents and two older sisters have always challenged me to pursue excellence in everything I do. This pursuit of excellence was inculcated into me early in my life and continues to this day. Both my sisters (one who completed a career in private industry and the other who is a retired SES) coached and counseled me every step of the way. However, if I were to share with you a specific instance in which someone influenced me to become my best, that person would be ADM Sam Locklear, and the instance was related to doing more for our civilian workforce. He taught me the importance of doing as much as we can for our civilians, and in this case, allowing three paid hours per week for our civilians to do physical training. I was opposed to the policy change at first, but after speaking with him, I learned more about what it means to be a leader.
Q: May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. What does being an Asian American Pacific Islander leader at USPACOM mean to you? Is there someone from this community that has influenced you, or who has a story that is interesting to you?
A: I have been very fortunate in having many caring mentors throughout my life. To give back my good fortune, mentoring is one of the most important things I now do. As an Asian American and Pacific Islander, it's important that members of this community have role models and mentors who look like them, have similar backgrounds as them, and understand the challenges that they may be facing to make them better individuals and employees of the Department of Defense. A few years ago, I was honored to have lunch with Senator Dan Inouye following a ceremony in which we unveiled our new DoD fleet of hydrogen fueled automobiles on O'ahu. During lunch, Senator Inouye, a very humble man who didn't want any facilities named after him, shared a story with me. He said that he finally agreed to have something named after him, specifically the Flag Mess (he called it the "cafeteria") in the headquarters building of US Pacific Command. He mentioned this to his wife, who asked, "So what are they going to call this cafeteria?" Senator Inouye's answer? "Inouye's Mess." Senator Inouye was the perfect role model for me because he was all about excellence (pono) and humility (ha'aha'a). I now strive for excellence and humility in all I do.