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Rear Admiral Peter Gumataotao

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 Peter Gumataotao, Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategic Plans and Policy, Supreme Allied Command Transformation, Norfolk

I am very proud to call myself a Pacific Islander. I do consider myself fortunate to live in a great country where there are no limits to opportunities and what you can do with these opportunities.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Navy?

A: I appreciate the question, and for many I suspect, serving in the military was a goal or passion from an early age. But for me, it was simply a combination of a persistent Blue and Gold officer by the name of CDR Larry Schlang who saw something in me to push for the Naval Academy. That, combined with pure curiosity to see the world and experience first-hand, places I only read about or saw on TV, led me to the Navy. In retrospect, I am very grateful to CDR Schlang for all his efforts to ensure I was given a fair shot at going to Annapolis. You see, my initial application was turned down by the admissions board, specifically a medical board which determined my fit for service was in question due to a history of heart disease and diabetes in my family. I had my first dose of "common sense" when Larry asked if I was diagnosed with the same conditions and replied no. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Larry then pursued every option to get my record re-evaluated. His perseverance made a big difference and I was eventually given an appointment to the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport Rhode Island. That year in Newport helped me prepare mentally and physically for the four arduous years at the Academy. By the way, I still have the original correspondence from the Med-Board that Larry gave me which stated I was unfit for military service. Maybe I should frame it. A good lesson for anyone who falls short with the first shot is to never give up.

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

A: My mom and dad were awesome role models and mentors from day one. Both were very humble. They taught me not to judge others. They showed me what an ounce of kindness, patience and a simple smile could do towards building respect with others. A hug in our house was not uncommon. Growing up, we also did a lot as a family. From fishing, working at the ranch, playing cards to the wee hours of the night, or going to church almost daily, it was always done as a family. I didn't think this was anything special from what others experienced and in fact, much of what my mom and dad taught me was a big part of the culture on Guam. But I do look back at my idyllic upbringing and I'm grateful for the values I took away from it, especially the importance of keeping God center in everything we did. Made me appreciate what I had and not worry about what we didn't have. I didn't think much about it then but I see now how this upbringing benefitted me throughout my career and more importantly, in my life as a husband and father. Professionally, I did not lack mentors or role models. In fact, to name a few would leave out so many. I was fortunate to have great Chief Petty Officers, exceptional Commanding Officers, and shipmates who took the time to mentor and guide my development as a Naval Officer. Many went out on the ledge for me which only inspired me to do better.

Q: Which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

A: Unquestionably, all my Command tours were most memorable: USS CURTIS WILBUR, USS DECATUR, DESRON THIRTY ONE, NAVAL FORCES KOREA, CARRIER STRIKE GROUP ELEVEN and NAVAL SURFACE FORCES ATLANTIC. What stood out the most about these tours were the phenomenal people that came together as a team. Were there challenges? Absolutely, but I was always astonished by how much we could accomplish and overcome with a tight team who believed in a purpose greater than ourselves. My Sailors inspired me and I grew immeasurably as a person as a result of all these command tours. I'd be remised if I didn't say that my JO tours were also very special. I had a blast in both Division Officer tours. The positive experiences I had in those first five years set the tone and played a big factor of whether I stayed in the Navy or not.

Collage of pictures featuring RADM Peter Gumataotao, published by All Hands Magazine.

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

A: I don't have to think too much about this question. Hands down it has been my wife of 30+ years, AnneMarie. I found throughout my career that there is a fine line between what I want to hear versus what I need to hear. AnneMarie always gave me the honest truth. I trust her unconditionally. She listens and observes well. She grounds me and challenges me to always do better. Sounds very much like a mentor doesn't it? But she is more than that to me. I truly believe I could not have achieved all I have accomplished without her support, counsel and example.

Q: What does being an Asian American Pacific Islander leader in the Navy mean to you?

A: There is no way I consider myself any more special than the multitude of Asian Pacific Islanders serving and leading in our military today. I am very proud to call myself a Pacific Islander. I do consider myself fortunate to live in a great country where there are no limits to opportunities and what you can do with these opportunities. In my father's generation, where he served honorably in our Navy during WWII, there were only limited career paths open to Pacific Islanders. In our military today, the opportunities to realize your full potential are unlimited. I am living testimony that all things are possible if you dare to take the step to pursue your passion.

Q: Is there someone from this community that has influenced you?

A: There is one Pacific Islander leader that has been a positive influence in my career and that's Brigadier General Ben Blaz (USMC, Ret) who was also a former Guam Congressional Delegate after he retired from the Marine Corps. I've always heard of Gen Blaz since he holds the distinguished title of being the first Chamorro decent FOGO. I was honoured when I received a call from him when I first picked up Flag. He was extremely genuine in his advice to me since then. We've met several times since that phone call and I cannot say enough for the sage counsel and support he provided me through my time as a Flag. Sadly, he passed away last year but his mentorship has left a positive and permanent impression in me. So now, we have the watch and it is our turn to serve as role models for the generations that follow and who choose to proudly wear our country's cloth.