Face of Defense: Navy Master Chief Serves on 12th Deployment
By Army Cpl. Clay Beversdorfer
Regional Command South
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 9, 2014 Because he has traveled around the world and served on 11 deployments, some might think Command Master Chief Petty Officer Juan Lopez would be winding down in his Navy career.
Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Juan Lopez smiles for the camera at the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 4, 2014. Lopez, serving on his 12th deployment, is the senior enlisted advisor to the hospital’s command group. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
He says otherwise.
“The day I ‘have’ to do something is the day I will leave,” Lopez said. “I don’t see that happening any time soon. I love what I do. I could never get tired of this.”
Lopez is serving on his 12th deployment, this time as the command master chief of the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital here.
As the senior enlisted advisor to the hospital’s command group, Lopez acts as the voice for all enlisted sailors serving there.
“Any need they may have, I make sure it gets taken care of,” he said. “I take care of everything that may cause an issue for them. That way, they can go focus on their jobs here.”
He also oversees the Chief Petty Officer 365 program, which is designed to help chief petty officers advance in their careers and eventually become senior and master chief petty officers.
Lopez talked about his motivation to emphasize the CPO 365 program, as well as the importance of being a chief petty officer.
“I want someone to eventually take over for me and be able to succeed at this position,” he said. “Once you become a chief, senior chief and master chief, it’s not about you any more. It is about your sailors. It isn’t a ‘job’ any more. You have to be there and help guide these young people.”
Lopez said he has had a great deal of guidance from his family, most notably his father, who was a colonel in the Nicaraguan army. His father, who Lopez said was a “highly decorated officer,” served in a multitude of positions, including as a liaison at the Pentagon.
“He was the youngest colonel to be that decorated and have the positions he had,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of history behind his name.” He is the only one of the eight children in his family who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps of serving in the military, he added.
Before joining the Navy in 1986, Lopez said, he lived with his sister in West Covina, Calif. “She pushed me and helped me stay out of trouble, and supported me when I decided to join,” he said.
Since that time, Lopez has served in many different places, including Iraq, Haiti, Panama, Greece and every country in South America. He also has served here before as a corpsman with a Marine expeditionary unit.
Lopez talked about the difference between his first time here and his current deployment.
“Back then, I slept in a two-man tent and none of this was here,” he said, referring to the airfield’s infrastructure. “Now, coming back, I get here and just say ‘Wow.’ It is crazy to think I will see the very beginning and the end of this place.”
Lopez said he is glad to serve his country. “I know we are all contributing to peace, and not giving the bad guys a chance,” Lopez said. “I am proud to be a part of that process.”
As he advanced in his career and traveled the world, Lopez said, he has kept one particular thing in mind.
“You’re always contributing, no matter where you are at,” he said.
Looking back over the positions he has held through the years, Lopez said his time as a command master chief has been his favorite.
“Being able to guide junior sailors is very rewarding,” he said. “There is no greater feeling than seeing them succeed. I wouldn’t change serving here and being in the Navy for the world.”
Lopez said he keeps the advice he gives to sailors short and simple. “Live by your Navy Code -- honor, courage, commitment and integrity,” he said.