CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Command Master Chief Harlan B. Patawaran, with 1st Marine Logistics Group and a native of Pampanga, Philippines, expresses how important it is to take advantage of all the opportunities available in the military.
When and why did you decide to enlist in the Navy?
I enlisted in 1991 when they still had a base in the Philippines. I joined to better myself and to be a part of the most powerful military in the world. It wasn’t that easy to get in. It was actually like winning the lottery. The day I took my test, there were about 400 candidates and out of those 400 they only picked the top ten. The way the selection process worked was you submitted a picture of yourself, and if you were selected then you took the test, and if you scored high enough, then you had several interviews to do. It was a year-long process.
What was it like to grow up in the Philippines?
I had six siblings - five boys and two girls. Growing up, we were a middle class family and my dad had his own business. We were always helping out. I would deliver goods while in high school. We all went to a Catholic school. We worked hard and were very fortunate growing up. I enjoyed my life in the Philippines. I was there 24 years. Along the way, some of my family migrated here and others stayed home.
Do you think sometimes service members take the military for granted?
I do. I feel very privileged. I got a degree in healthcare management and it was free. I just had to make time to do it. There are opportunities in the military that I think we always take for granted. I think where we fail sometimes is when we don’t take the initiative to go and do it. I could have a very good mentor tell me to do this and to do that to be successful, but if I don’t get up and say ‘You know what, I’m going to go do that because I have the initiative and determination,’ then you are never going to succeed.
Do you have any advice for Marines and Sailors that are just starting out?
I always tell people to seek out a mentor. Ask around and talk to a lot of folks, because everyone has a different experience. They have a lot of knowledge, and if I was a young person just coming in the military, I’d be open to all the opportunities. You need to make sure to plan your career. Give yourself some deadlines, because you are in charge of your career. It’s your life. You don’t want to waste your time waiting four, six and eight years ... you basically just kept yourself stagnant.
What is your biggest achievement?
I think for me, my personal achievement, is seeing young Sailors and young Marines progress in their careers, especially if I had an opportunity to affect a change in them or their way of thinking toward success.
Have you had the opportunity to deploy?
I participated in a few Western Pacific deployments aboard ships. I also supported the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and deployed to Iraq again in 2004 with 1st Marine Division. In 2012, I was part of an embedded training team with the Afghan National Army. It was what they called a global support activity.
What would you say the most important moment of your career?
I would say deploying in support of the initial invasion of Iraqi and motivating those young Sailors and Marines in a difficult time ... so much was unknown. I would say it was an important and scary part of my career because we had young Marines and Sailors asking questions and I didn’t have the answers. All I could say is we were are all here for a reason. I tried to motivate them to have positive attitudes. They needed it, they needed that drive. They were not scared to deploy, but it was having those unknowns.
What do you think defines good leadership?
A good leader is someone who would influence his people to achieve a certain goal. I always tell them a good leader is someone who is accessible, approachable and does not intimidate. Also, a good leader is a role model and someone who is doing the right thing at all times. It is someone who influences people to do and achieve a certain mission.
What is your leadership style?
I am an intrusive leader. I like to know my Sailors and my Marines because every single person has their own needs. Every person has their own motivational factor. I need to know their motivating factor and needs or else I’m not going to be able to help them. When things come up I know exactly what to do and what they need. So for me it is intrusive leadership. I like walking around and seeing folks. It’s not just about seeing them when they are in trouble it’s about making myself visible to the troops.
Do you have anything to add?
I am just very appreciative of everything that the Navy has given me. Every single military member needs to take advantage of all the opportunities they can to succeed. Everything is available to you, you just need to take the time to take advantage of it.