For my background, I enlisted in the Navy on September 17, 2001 out of Miami, Florida. My mother, from Puerto Rico, moved to the states in her 20s and my father, from Honduras moved around the same time. Miami is a melting pot of culture and diversity and it gave me a unique upbringing. Growing up in a community enriched with people that are constantly trying to develop themselves and see what opportunities are out there, it really contributed to my spirit of hope and community integration.

Moving from Miami to my first duty station was a culture shift for me. For the first time in my life, I felt like a minority. Both as a Latina and as a female. There weren’t any Latina leaders out there that I could see myself in and my energetic spirit was often seen as disruptive. I felt muted at times as I tried to find myself again and figure out what my future held.

Fast forward to making Chief in 2012, I was surrounded be the females in my Mess at the time that were welcoming me with an embrace into the Mess. As much as I felt comforted by their presence, I felt that they were also comforted by mine. One of them told me to “Be the role model that I needed as a junior Sailor” and I really reflected on that for a while. Some may have aspirations to be heroes whereas I felt this whole time I was just trying to figure out where I fit in. Suddenly I’m being told my anchors meant I was a spokesperson for females serving in the military everywhere and though I’d come to embrace leadership in general by donning my anchors, the gender specific task suddenly felt too big for me.

I wanted to be a leader, not a female leader. I wanted to be a role model, not a Latina role model. And mostly, I wanted to be the best person I could be, not the best person I could be despite being a female and a Latina. I called it “Leading with a caveat” and I did not like this very specific role that was given to me.

I had a female Master Chief sit down with me to discuss this turmoil that was brewing inside. I said “I don’t want to be a “Female Leader” or “The Female Chief”. I just want to be “The Chief”. She reminded me of my background and where I’ve been and come from. And then we spoke about demographics and some of the specific struggles I’ve been through. But then we also spoke about why I approached her with this problem and not one of the male Master Chiefs. And it hit me. It really wasn’t about how I saw myself or what I needed. I really did need to be the Chief I needed growing up as a Junior Sailor. The female Chief. Just as I was now seeking counsel and guidance from someone that looks like me, someone I hope to be like some day. That Female Master Chief.

That really did change everything. Now I proudly talk to the Sailors and I really do take the time to talk about what it’s like for us and the stresses of motherhood, work/life balance, and dealing with all the societal pressures of being singled out because of gender, race, color, or religion. When I have the opportunities to talk to Sailors, I let them know yes, I am a Latina, dual-military with 3 young children, serving for 22 years now, have made it to the rank of Master Chief, and I have an Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Post Masters, and Doctorate degree. And if you need me to be The Chief that accomplished all of that because you’re looking for hope to achieve similar accomplishments, I will be that for you. And if you need me to be the Latina Chief or the Female Chief, or the working mom Chief, I will also be that for you. Because inspiring isn’t necessary about gender or race or other factors, it’s about emulating qualities that you see in someone you can relate to and using that as a guide to aspirations you think you may achieve some day. Through the mentorship of some wonderful Brothers and Sisters, I have embraced being a Leader in all the ways my Sailors and Communities need me to be.