Suitland, Md. –
Rear Adm. Mike Studeman, Commander, Office of Naval Intelligence, in collaboration with the Naval Intelligence Activity Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (NIA DEIA) Office and the Asian American Pacific Islander Community (AAPIC) Employee Resource Group (ERG) hosted the chat.
“The Office of Naval Intelligence was honored to host General Nakasone and hear his life story and experiences as an Asian American,” said Studeman. “The Intelligence Community needs leaders like General Nakasone to share their passion and perspective about the diversity of gender, race, ethnicity and thought in America that makes us truly great.”
The United States celebrates AAPI Heritage Month during the month of May to commemorate the vital contributions of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and native Hawaiians to the American story and to recognize some of the challenges they have faced along the way. The Department of Defense’s theme for this year’s cultural observance is “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity”.
During the chat, Nakasone discussed his heritage as an Asian American and the impact it has had on his career and leadership. From his own experiences, his family history, and learning from the struggles of others who have experienced bias taught Nakasone the importance of creating an inclusive environment for all.
“At the end of the day, as a leader, I think it’s my responsibility to set that framework, that culture, that environment of dignity and respect,” said Nakasone.
Nakasone is the son of second-generation Japanese American and retired Army Colonel Edwin Nakasone who served in the Military Intelligence Service during WWII as a Japanese linguist. His extended family served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the most decorated units in the history of the U.S. military. His strong family background during a time where Japanese Americans were under constant scrutiny following the events of Pearl Harbor and subjected to racial bias gave Nakasone the perspective and drive to forge his own career.
“It’s important for all of us to understand that we all have heritage to draw on,” said Nakasone.
As the senior Asian American within the U.S. military, Nakasone has taken advantage of his heritage to provide unique, mission-critical perspectives to some of the most challenging issues facing our nation. He describes the wide range of diversity within the armed forces alone as a critical asset.
"From that diversity, I found that we always got better solutions,” said Nakasone.
Throughout his years of service, Nakasone has advocated for more diverse leadership that better represents the demographics of our nation and can recognize the strength of a culturally diverse fighting force. His emphasis on the importance of strong mentors and leaders provides a blueprint for career development at all stages in all communities. For Nakasone, the value in mentorship and leadership lies
in having alternate perspectives, learning to actively listen to the stories of others and developing a strong sense of empathy. These tenets are critical to improving the intelligence community.
“This idea of being able to have a series of mentors that provide you the ability to see yourself because we’re only as good as our ability to see ourselves 360,” said Nakasone. “That’s one of the things that has really been able to help me.”
Nakasone expressed his appreciation for ONI’s mission and commended the establishment of the AAPIC ERG as a great opportunity to ensure the press forward with greater inclusivity and opportunity for all.
Following the chat, Studeman thanked Nakasone for sharing his time and story with the workforce as well as Ronald Rose, the NIA DEIA Officer, Carrie Buckles, senior executive champion of the AAPIC ERG and event co-host, and the AAPIC ERG members for organizing the event.
Also in attendance was the Honorable Franklin R. Parker, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), Sandra Brown, Assistant Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence and Deputy Director, Naval Intelligence Activity, and Jing Deng, Information Workforce Division Director and Intelligence Chief Human Capital Officer at Deputy, Commandant for Information, Headquarters Marine Corps.
The NIA DEIA Office collaborates with and supports seven ERGs. Each ERG provides employees with a particular commonality to share a space, support each other, and spread awareness throughout the naval intelligence enterprise.
NIA’s AAPIC ERG was founded in early 2023 when Yuwen Michelson, along with her colleague Connor Akiyama, employees at Nimitz Warfare Analysis Center, attended an intelligence community event for Asian Americans within the intelligence community and discovered an opportunity to develop an AAPI specific ERG.
“It was important that we represent our chapter as Asian Americans within the IC”, said Michelson.
Organizing this event gave the AAPIC ERG the opportunity to reach out to senior Asian American leadership to give them the chance to share their story and give space to fellow members of their community.
“This is a unique ask for a general and General Nakasone is very passionate about sharing his heritage.” said Michelson.
By providing ally-ship and resources to these groups, NIA DEIA along with the AAPIC ERG raise awareness and engage in meaningful conversation that promote inclusivity and cultural awareness within the workplace and is open to any military or civilian employee who wish to join.