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Women's History Month: FLTCM April Beldo, CMDCM Jean Heitzman, LSC Latonya Starks, OS1 Jennifer Galvez and YN2 Tyquesha Hewitt

Navy leaders and pioneers

Women's History Month Command Master Chief Jean Heitzman graphic.

CMDCM Jean M. Heitzman is currently serving as Command Master Chief of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136

Q: Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

A: I initially decided to join the Naval Reserves under the SAM program to enhance my opportunities in my civilian career.

After boot camp and Storekeeper "A" school I returned home for about 9 months when I realized that I really enjoyed the Navy and wanted to seek a career as well as serve my country and see the world.

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

A: I have a lucrative list of role models/mentors, and I will apologize in advance if I leave anyone off this list because I have served for and with some amazing men/women.

One amazing group was the Chiefs mess onboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT CVN71 to include but not limited to: CMDCM Beth Lambert, SHCM Michelle Mikulski, HMCM Marina Letourneau, LSCM Julie Chandoo and LSCM Paul Hoffman. Each one of the individuals I have noted have had a huge part in molding, shaping, guiding, directing, counseling and correcting me, which in return allowed me to grow into the leader I am today. These role models/mentors taught me that to be an effective leader you have to be able to inspire others to want to be a part of something greater than they already are. Leadership is inspiration, not manipulating, that was the key element I learned serving under such fantastic role models/mentors, their inspiring style of leadership consistently reinforced motivation, training and guiding junior Sailor to reach their professional and personal goals.

Q: Please tell us a story about someone perhaps in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than you ever though you might.

A: My mom was always my biggest inspiration.

She married my father young, had eight children and although she and my father divorced when I was 5, she refused to go on government assistance. She would work two and/or three jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Although my sibling and I didn't grow up having it all, we always had each other. My siblings and I were taught young that hard work, dedication and perseverance were qualities of our mothers, that we all wanted to emulate. I am thankful every day that I developed my mother's work ethic and drive to succeed. My mom was my rock, my cheerleader, my biggest fan and always no matter what, extremely proud of me. She encouraged me and loved me, even when I was afraid she might be disappointed.
Four photo collage of CMC Heitzman (L-R) 3rd class in whites; as a chief; boot camp; official CMC photo

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

A: I must say all my past assignments hold a place near and dear to my heart but if I had to pick, I would have to say my first tour onboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT CVN71 (2005-2008) was when and where I learned the most.

I was a new Chief and was super blessed to work directly with and for all the role models/mentors I mentioned above. Their everyday interaction with me inspired me to want to be the Master Chief and make a difference in today's Navy. As I look back now I realize it wasn't just their leadership, it was their friendship and love for what they did that also inspired me. I would watch, listen and learn as they interacted with fellow Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs as well as senior and junior Officers in meeting milestones for the ship. Not every interaction was pleasant but the character and poise that these professional men and women possessed inspired me to want to achieve that next milestone in my career so that I could one day enhance the leadership growth of junior Sailors.

I also enjoyed my tour at Afloat Training Group Norfolk (2008-2011) because there I was given the opportunity to train the entire waterfront from a front line leader perspective. My time at ATG was the best time of my life! Doing ship visits and training all the junior Logistician was/is my dream job. I study hard and worked hard to know my rate front to back, when I first joined the navy we were still doing manual storekeeping, I learned Micro-Snap, Snap, SUADPS, RSupply, Unit Level RSuppy and Force Level RSupply. Having the opportunity to train our Sailor on the waterfront was/is immeasurable! I am thankful to have had the opportunity and having the junior Sailors still reach out to me and thank me is what makes this portion of my career unforgettable for me.

As the Command Master Chief of Strike Fighter Squadron 136 I have found my niche I have to admit. I was worried at first stepping into an unfamiliar platform being a shipboard Sailor; I had to learn to speak a whole new language in the aviation community. But, I am so thankful for this opportunity, the KNIGHTHAWKS are a fantastic group of professional that inspire me daily.

Q: What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

A: Having the opportunity to serve in the Navy and be a front line leader is a privilege and honor, I stand in awe every day that I have been given this opportunity.

I absolutely love watching our junior Sailors grow and achieve personal awards, excelling with qualification and ultimately promoting. I tell my junior Sailor's that everyone needs to have a leadership philosophy and mine is the word F.A.I.T.H. I believe leadership has to remain, Fair and Firm, be Accountable and Approachable, have Intestinal Fortitude and Integrity, Train, Train, Train (to enable Sailors to promote) and remain Humble (never forget where you came from) and without a doubt F.A.I.T.H. is the core of my being! Empowering Sailors at the deck plate level is what keeps me motivated because these junior Sailors voice concerns and ideas that can potential change a command and/or Navy policies and procedures. I absolutely love John F Kennedys quote "I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: "I served in the UNITED STATES NAVY"