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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 Chief Latonya Starks graphic.

LSC Latonya Starks is currently serving aboard Destroyer Squadron 60

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

A: I joined the Navy for a challenge and a lifestyle change.

Throughout my upbringing I had to be creative and find ways to overcome difficult barriers and obstacles. I was the first in my family to receive a high school diploma. I also, took on the responsibility of raising my brother early on in my career. I joined the Navy to unite personal, career and family goals which in turn helped me fit all parts of my life together.

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

A: My mentors throughout my career were LSCM Venancio Linatoc, USN, Retired, BMC Jessie Willie, USN, Retired and LSC Ruby Lim who have had a great impact on my personal and professional life.

They helped me to access my strengths and weakness and how to work through challenges. They provided a new way of looking at things by providing alternatives during my decision making process instead of telling me what to do. My passion is helping others to accomplish their goals in life and being a proactive deckplate leader. Teamwork is the key to success in the military. I was taught to help people connect their personal work to the goals of the team and the vision of the organization.
Three photo collage of LSC Starks (L-R) chief pinning; Black History Month cake cutting; leading command on PT run

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 thought you might.

A: I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. My mom and brother, whom I raised, influenced and challenged me to become the person that I am today.

I was able to pull through bad conditions which helped me flourish under good ones. My mom's actions inspired me to do my best and to get more out of life than I ever thought I could. Raising my brother at a young age allowed me to experience risk and failure which allowed me to reap the consequences. Being able to tolerate failure helped me to succeed as a person and leader. Although I am shaped by my past I was able to overcome the challenges that I was faced with and achieve something greater.

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

A: My first assignment was Amphibious Construction Battalion One.

I had my first leadership opportunity, as a Second Class I assumed the responsibilities as a Leading Petty Officer. While assigned to the Aviation Support Division in San Diego, I advanced to the rank of First Class Petty officer. I was selected to the rank of Chief Petty Officer onboard the USS Higgins. While serving at the Naval Academy, I had the opportunity to mentor and develop future officers. I am currently serving at DESRON 60, where I have accomplished one of my childhood dreams, obtaining a Master's Degree.

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

A: An effective leader shares their vision and inspires others to support, while creating their own.

They lead by example and share their experiences to help inspire action. Leaders strive to create a positive working environment, which motivates others to perform at their best. This in return brings a sense of purpose to the individual work and results in greater performance. Leaders must be able to adapt to change and continue to challenge themselves for a purpose they believe in. A good leader is driven, has passion for what they do, communicates, listens, and empowers others to be successful.