Face of Defense: The Cuban Chief's Recipe for Leadership

Department of Defense | Dec. 6, 2023

By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Arroyo

Speaking in a thick Cuban accent with confidence suitable to her rank, Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marrerosuarez, from Miami, says that after a decade of serving in the Navy, she has the "recipe" for success as a leader.

A sailor smiles for a picture.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marerrosuarez Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Arroyo

 

Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marrerosuarez

Hometown: Miami Stationed: USS Gerald R. Ford

That recipe begins with a hefty amount of hard work and discipline

According to Marrerosuarez, these are values ingrained in her from growing up in impoverished conditions, living with food insecurity and clothing scarcity in Cuba. In 2008, at 19 years old, she emigrated with her family from Havana to Miami. 

 

"I grew up in a very poor country, I didn't have food many days out of the month, I didn't have clothes, I grew up poor," said Marrerosuarez. She explains that the benefit of working hard and having discipline is that it will pay dividends no matter what. 

If you wait until you are motivated, you won't go far. But if your self-discipline comes through, then you will be successful no matter what."

Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marrerosuarez



 

"Nothing can stop me because from an early age I was taught these values which I will carry with me for the rest of my life." 

 

According to Marrerosuarez, a positive attitude is an essential ingredient for making a good leader. It is also a trait she associates with her mom. 

 

"My mother is my biggest hero," said Marrerosuarez. "She used to tell me that I can accomplish anything that I want to, that there are no impossibilities, and the only barriers are in my mind. As long as you have a positive attitude, you can go anywhere you want, and everyone will want to work with you."

Five sailors pose for a picture.
Morning Quarters Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marerrosuarez, center, assigned to the supply department of the world's largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, holds morning quarters during a port visit to Souda Bay, Greece, Dec. 2, 2023. Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Arroyo

 

Two years after coming to Miami, she joined the Navy not able to speak English, but with a goal to learn the language. 

 

"I knew that if I stayed in Miami, I wouldn't be able to learn the language the way I wanted because everyone was speaking Spanish," said Marrerosuarez. 

 

When she got to boot camp, she recalls that when commands were given by the recruit division commander, she had to look at what others were doing in order to understand what was expected. "I remember being in boot camp, and because I couldn't understand everything that the RDC was saying, I would have to follow what my bunkmate was doing," said Marrerosuarez. "But if she was wrong, then I was wrong, and we would both be yelled at." 

 

According to Marrerosuarez, an equally important ingredient of leadership is self-care. She emphasizes that taking care of oneself first is vital to the job of leadership. 

 

"How are you going to be able to pour from your cup into another cup if you are on empty," said Marrerosuarez. 

I teach my sailors to give 100 percent when they are at work, but when they are home, they should be emotionally and physically present with their families because family, often times, is their biggest support system."

Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marrerosuarez

A sailor speaks to a large group of sailors.
Morning Quarters Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marerrosuarez, left, addresses sailors at morning quarters during a port visit to Souda Bay, Greece, Dec. 2, 2023. Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Arroyo



Seven years after graduating from boot camp, she was back at the recruit training command. This time she was giving the orders as an RDC. As a fluent Spanish speaker, Marrerosuarez says she acted as a lifeline for recruits with similar backgrounds, struggling with the added difficulty of communication. She would tell the recruits to trust her, that once they learned the language, nothing would stop them.

"I would talk to them and tell them that I was in their shoes once upon a time and that it gets better, but it takes time, resiliency and dedication," said Marrerosuarez. 

 

The final ingredients to make a leader are balance and self-discipline, says Marrerosuarez. Balance is a thing that she eventually learned from overworking. 

 

"I would work, work, work, and neglect my family and my personal life," said Marrerosuarez. "I teach my sailors to give 100 percent when they are at work, but when they are home, they should be emotionally and physically present with their families because family, often times, is their biggest support system."

Eight sailors pose for a picture.
Morning Quarters Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marerrosuarez, center, assigned to the supply department of the world's largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, holds morning quarters during a port visit to Souda Bay, Greece, Dec. 2, 2023. Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Arroyo
A large group of sailors pose for a photo.
Morning Quarters Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Marerrosuarez, center, assigned to the supply department of the world's largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, holds morning quarters during a port visit to Souda Bay, Greece, Dec. 2, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Arroyo

 

Self-discipline, she explains, is necessary to effectively channel one's drive to succeed. "Drive is something that we all have, but it takes self-discipline to accomplish things," says Marrerosuarez. "If you wait until you are motivated, you won't go far. But if your self-discipline comes through, then you will be successful no matter what." 



Marrerosuarez is going on her second year assigned to the USS Gerald R. Ford, the command where she was chosen to join the ranks of the senior enlisted leadership as a chief petty officer. She says that making it to the rank of chief was one of her biggest accomplishments. 

 

"Sometimes I look back and think it's crazy how 15 years ago I was living in a country where I couldn't express my ideas, where I didn't have food and clothes," said Marrerosuarez. "Now, I am a chief in the United States Navy. I feel so proud of that and how far I've come, from nothing to a leader, to be able to inspire and to help other people who have similar backgrounds."

 
(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Arroyo is assigned to the USS Gerald R. Ford.)