From Island Boy to Admiral
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel J. Taylor, SURFOR Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - Naval Surface Forces’ (SURFOR) Chief of Staff, Captain Peter A. Gumataotao, was recently selected for the rank of rear admiral lower half, making him the first Guamanian U.S. Navy officer to attain flag rank.
Gumataotao said “I am honored and humbled to be selected for flag rank.” He went on to say, “I will take time to pause and reflect on all that I have gone through on the path that has brought me to this point in my life. I will then take that knowledge and apply it to whatever the Navy has in mind for me next.”
Gumataotao is originally from Sinajana, Guam, where he grew up living and working on his family’s ranch. One of five brothers, he lived in Guam until he turned 18 at which point he left home to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) in Newport, Rhode Island.
“My parents gave me a solid core of values, like working hard, respect for others and dedication,” said Gumataotao. “These were a building block for what I was taught at the prep school and later at the U.S. Naval Academy and fit in with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.”
After graduating from NAPS, Gumataotao attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Resource Management.
“As I went through the many challenges at the U.S. Naval Academy and adjusted to a new environment, I fell back on the lessons and values my parents instilled in me growing up,” said Gumataotao. “The core that they gave me has been the building block of my career. I hope they are proud of me, and I believe they are,” he added.
Gumataotao said he has never forgotten his roots and that the experiences he has had during his career, including 11 deployments, has only added to the foundation his parents gave him.
“One of the highlights from my time in the Navy was during the maiden deployment of USS Decatur (DDG 73), which was also my first time as the commanding officer. We had the opportunity to pull into Guam,” said Gumataotao. “I had reached a point in my life where the Navy had seen fit to give me the awesome responsibility to command a ship, which is an amazing honor and responsibility. But, to be able to share that experience with people who knew me or knew of me, to pull into the same harbor where I used to go fishing as a kid, and to see the island open its arms to me, I felt very blessed and humbled to be given that opportunity and it made me glad that I chosen the Navy as a career.”
“Another defining moment was when I was promoted to captain at the USS Arizona Memorial. It was a very fitting and humble setting for the ceremony because just forward of the Arizona during World War II was the USS California, which my dad had served on. So I dedicated that promotion to my dad, and also to my mom who couldn’t be there. My father had passed in 1975 and I had joined in 1976, so he never saw me join the military. I thought it was a fitting tribute to a man who was very humble, worked very hard and cared for his family a lot. To fast forward more than 25 years, and dedicate that to my dad in a place where he was fighting for his country, was a defining moment for me as well as an incredible achievement.”
Gumataotao says he takes an active role in his Sailors careers by advising and nurturing them, he said it is more than part of the job - it is something he is very passionate about.
“The best advice I can give to junior Sailors is to know yourself and be open to the world around you,” said Gumataotao. “Try to understand your own strengths and personality as well as the strengths and personality of others. Also, stay open to what others have to offer, don’t just shut them down because you think you know better.”
Gumataotao said one of the most important things for him was to maintain a balance between the Navy and his home life. “Having their support makes it easier when my duties take me away from them.”
“One of the biggest challenges I have had to face in my Navy life has been leaving my family behind when I am at sea,” said Gumataotao. “But, knowing that they are thinking of me and praying for me and that I am thinking of them and sending them good thoughts keeps my spirits up. The support my family gives me makes the balance between work and home very important to me.”
Gumataotao’s passion for his family, for being a naval officer and for the Sailors that make up our Navy has brought him this far in his career. He says that he will take these passions and values, which his family back in Guam and later the Navy gave him, onto the next step of his journey.