RDML Samuel Perez

Hometown: Canutillo, TX
Ethnicity: Mexican American
Current Assignment: Deputy Director of Joint Interagency Task Force South
Based in: Key West, FL
Education: Naval Academy, Navy Postgraduate School
Hobbies: Fixing things, “tricking out” cars, cycling, cooking

What made you decide to join the Navy? There was a crossroad in my life, a path that I recall distinctly. When I was a young boy, I would help out on the farm during the summers. It was very hot, over 100 degrees. I would work with the tumbleweeds out in the fields on a tractor. The summer before high school began I was out there doing my normal work on my tractor when I stopped and looked around – I realized that if I didn’t do something radically different with my education, I would end up doing this exact type of work for my whole life. I wanted something better for my life, more opportunities. I got off the tractor, walked into my house and told my mom, I can’t go to public high school this year. I must go to a private school and get the best education possible. This path led me to the Naval Academy and down the road to where I am today – one of the highest-ranking Hispanic Officers in the United States Navy.

How did your family react when you told them that you were joining the Navy?
They were thrilled! They knew I was interested in attending the University of Notre Dame but also understood that I had a deep calling to join the military and give back to my country, so they were supportive of either decision.

How long have you been in the Navy? Commissioned in 1980–present, so about 30 years!

What are some of the different assignments you’ve had in the Navy since you joined? I served as the Electrical Officer and Main Propulsion Assistant aboard the USS Paul F. Foster and the Operations Officer aboard USS Knox and USS Bunker Hill. My three at-sea commands included command of USS Reclaimer (ARS 42), command of USS Vincennes (CG 49) and command of Destroyer Squadron 15. While in command of Desron 15, I deployed Desron 15 ships on Long Range Surveillance and Tracking missions in the Sea of Japan, completed multiple deployments with the Kitty Hawk Strike Group, coordinated and participated in over 10 Joint/Combined Operations in the Pacific AOR and participated in numerous anti-submarine technology and tactics development exercises.

What are some of your most memorable experiences while serving in the Navy? The people I have worked with – incredible talent! I remember crash-diving drills and eating Peking duck in Hong Kong! But what I especially remember is always working around people with a “can do” attitude. It makes all the difference in the world. The Navy has allowed me to cultivate leadership skills I wouldn’t have been able to cultivate anyplace else.

What advice do you give to young people who are interested in joining the Navy? Go for it. Don’t be afraid to leave home. Don’t be afraid of failure because you won’t… you won’t fail. You will have wonderful mentors and guys like myself who have a sense of responsibility to you. So long as you keep trying…you have the ganas (desire) and determination that drive you to succeed, we’re going to help you achieve those dreams.