Lt. Cmdr. Maxine J. Gardner
Join us as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Sailors, past and present, and their important contributions to the defense of our nation.
Lt. Cmdr. Maxine J. Gardner, SC, USN
I feel very fortunate as a member of the Navy because I think as an organization we tend to be at the forefront of social change. Our leadership has been careful to institute policy to ensure diversity is encouraged and celebrated.
Q: Why did you decide to join the Navy?
A: Initially, I decided to join the Navy for the opportunity to travel the world and also as a means to obtain a free education through a Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship. While I was in college going through the process to become a naval officer, I realized what it truly means to be in a leadership position and the commitment military members make when they choose to serve their country. At the heart of this organization are some honorable and perfect ideals I believe we collectively strive to embody, as we participate in pursuing our nation's values and interests.
Q: Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you?
A: Without trying to be too cliche, my mother and father will always be who I look to as role models and mentors. My mother immigrated to the United States when she was a teenager to attend high school and college. She entered into military service to earn her citizenship and is the most patriotic person I know. My sister and I were raised to have a strong work ethic in a very encouraging and supportive environment, which is undoubtedly why we are who we are today. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to work for and with some amazing people throughout my career and continue to observe and learn so much. Everyone who I have served with, both above and below me in the chain of command, have had an influence on me in some way.
Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.
A: I have only had a handful of tours in my career, but my most memorable and favorite so far, is my SUPPO tour on USS Higgins (DDG 76). The pace was fast and there were interesting challenges making it rather tough. It was also very rewarding as I watched my department and the rest of the crew come together to face and overcome those challenges.
Q: Can you share a story about someone who has influenced or challenged you to become your best?
A: When I was in middle school I was called a racial slur by a classmate of mine. Rather than allowing that moment to influence me in a negative way, I chose to use that instance of ignorance to become a better version of myself. It motivated me to continue to thrive and succeed in achieving goals despite being faced with adversity. Those hurtful words were only distractions meant to redirect my energy on something other than my true focus. Not everyone we meet in life wants to see us prosper, some people might even enjoy watching us fail, however we can't allow that to stop us from being the best versions of ourselves. I try to convey a similar message to others that face similar adversity - reframe negative experiences or setbacks, learn to forgive, grow, and chart a positive path forward. Don't get distracted.
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: I feel very fortunate as a member of the Navy because I think as an organization we tend to be at the forefront of social change. Our leadership has been careful to institute policy to ensure diversity is encouraged and celebrated. I like to think, regardless of ethnic background, all leaders take their role seriously, with humility and grace. I have not really considered my race as a factor of what leadership means, but if that is an entry way to someone's interest into who I am as a leader, I welcome their interest. I would also be very glad to share my thoughts and nurture leadership development in anyone who has that interest regardless of their background or circumstances. I find compelling stories in many leaders irrespective of ethnicity, and I particularly find myself inspired by the stories of those that have overcome personal or professional adversity as well as those that genuinely have an interest in making the Navy better than when they entered service.