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Rear Admiral Jonathan A. Yuen

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.

Rear Admiral Jonathan A. Yuen, Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command

As a third generation American, I look at my grandfather who took the naturalization test to become a United States citizen. He worked hard and loved America and made sure that my father got an education so he could be successful.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Navy?

A: I didn't necessarily set out to join the Navy; I set out to go to college. My father graduated from University of California, Berkeley and my mother graduated from San Francisco State University. I knew I was going to go to college no matter what. That was the expectation. There was never a thought that I was not going to go to college. I dreamed of going to Stanford, but life pulled me in a different direction. During high school, I began to receive information on the service academies and Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). My father had served as a Corporal in the Army after he graduated from Berkeley, and he said those were some of the fondest memories of his life. It gave him his G.I. Bill, which allowed him to go to Stanford to get his doctorate. His background instilled a sense of military service in me. He was proud to have served our country and I was proud of his service, too. So, I thought, why not apply to the service academies. I was accepted into West Point and the Naval Academy. I thought heading to West Point was the thing I should do since my father and uncles were Army. But, there was something about the Navy I was drawn to, something about the sea. I really didn't know anything about the Navy. I didn't even understand the rank structure. There is a famous quote from John F. Kennedy that reads, "We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came." I felt myself being pulled toward the sea-a calling. And so a great weight lifted off me when I accepted this calling and realized the paths I always thought I would follow were not meant for me. Without a doubt, Navy was the best place for me. I honestly feel the Navy is where God wanted me to serve and I'm thankful every day for the opportunity to do so.

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

A: My Uncle Jimmy and my dad had a big influence on my life. My father was in the Korean War. My Uncle Jimmy was a second lieutenant, a spotter in the Army -a field artillery officer. A lot of my uncles served in the Army during World War II. After I got into the Navy, I looked to Master Chief Campbell, Master Chief Crosher, Chief Murray and Chief Morrison. Crosher has since passed away but, I still keep in contact with the other Chiefs to this day. Rear Adm. Ray Sareeram and Rear Adm. Eckelberger were role models for my military career. I was an aide for Sareeram and I always joked that he taught me a lesson every day. Some lessons were hard and some were harder but he taught me, he mentored me. Eckelberger did the same. There were many other role models. Rear Adm. Dan Stone, former Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and 43rd Chief of Supply Corps, and I talk frequently. He's a great listener and he gives me perspective. Recently retired NAVSUP Vice John Goodhart helped develop me along with NAVSUP Office of Corporate Communications Director, Jan Derk, and Norm Huntowski who taught me how to write contracts. There were many folks whose wise counsel and guidance shaped me into who I am today.
Photo collage of RADM Yuen.

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

A: The most memorable assignment would be the Individual Augmentee Assignment in Baghdad. I wanted the "toughest job available" so retired Vice Adm. Al Thompson asked if I wanted the I.A. in Iraq. I said yes right away. As Deputy Commander of Ships and Submarines at Naval Inventory Control Point in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, I had sent many of my other junior officers on I.A.s. When offered the opportunity to go on an I.A., how could I do anything less than I expected of them? That's why I needed to go. I learned so much about how we fight in a Joint environment. I learned about different phases of the range of military operations. It taught me so much.

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

A: Rear Adm. Eckelberger once told me it's not HOW you get there; it's WHAT YOU DO when you get there. He inspired me to do my best no matter how long I'm in a position or what challenges I'm dealt.
In December 2013, I went to visit the Secretary of the Navy. He said I was the right guy for my current job as Commander NAVSUP and Chief of Supply Corps. I was very surprised and flattered and thought it was very humbling that the Secretary of the Navy picked me for such an important job. He challenged me to improve the Navy husbanding process. It took many people collaborating together to put stronger checks and balances in place. Nevertheless, my team and I worked through it and now our new processes and are working very well.

Sandra, my wife, reminds me I have lots to be humble about. She challenges me to be my best - she's my all - comforter, companion, teacher, and supporter. She keeps me focused when I need it, tells me the truth always. She's my coach.

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: For me, it's never been about being a minority. I really have never viewed myself that way but I do know that I am individual.

I was born and raised in San Francisco. I deeply love my roots. As a third generation American, I look at my grandfather who took the naturalization test to become a United States citizen. He worked hard and loved America and made sure that my father got an education so he could be successful. My grandfather knew how important education was to realizing the American dream. I look at my families (mom's side, dad's side), both are very large. One grew up in the Sacramento Valley, one in the city of San Francisco. They had very different experiences as immigrants, but yet were much the same in many ways with what struggles they went through. They taught me dreams do come true. It takes hard work, sometimes hard lessons, and lots of resiliency. I am very fortunate to have grown up with numerous supportive and encouraging family members.