An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Sailor Spotlight: From Military Child to Military Officer

24 April 2024

From Anna Marie G. Gonzales, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - No matter what life throws your way, Cmdr. Kellie Smith is adamant about one thing: Never give up.
Perseverance is what contributed to Smith’s rise from surveillance technician to warship commander.

Smith grew up in Germany and followed in her dad’s footsteps and joined the U.S Navy in 1995 as a cryptologic technician.

"I joined the Navy because I wanted to take care of myself. It was an opportunity to learn a trade, and I wanted to contribute to my country," said Smith. "I understood firsthand that it was a blessing to be an American and it was worth protecting."

After achieving the rank of E5, she competed for a spot in the BOOST program, a nine-month program that offers active duty enlisted men and women between the ages of 18-24 the opportunity to receive 10 months of extensive academic preparation in order to become more competitive for selection to the Naval Academy.

In 1999, she received the appointment to BOOST. After completing the program, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Tulane University.

Smith is currently the commanding officer aboard the USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), guided-missile destroyer, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

"Once I got my Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pin, I knew one day I wanted to command a warship," she said. "After my first tour as a SWO, I knew it was where I wanted to be, I was connected to all of it from driving and fighting the ship to serving with Sailors who put in their best every day."

“It is an awesome opportunity to work with a team dedicated to maintaining and operating America’s most complex and sophisticated warfighting system, fearlessly pushing into our adversaries’ battle space to hold them at risk and limiting their options to threaten our allies and partners.”

Smith’s sea tours include serving as the repair officer, auxiliary officer and main propulsion assistant aboard USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), navigator aboard USS Denver (LPD 9), and weapons and combat systems officer aboard the USS The Sullivans (DDG 68).

On shore, she served as the senior watch officer for NCIS Multiple Threat Alert Center, DoD liaison to the FBI Counter-Terror Watch, and global force management action officer at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

As she advanced in her career, Smith leaned into the struggles and difficult lessons.

"In my experience, the harder the tour, the more rewarding it is, especially when you turn around and see how much you were able to accomplish," said Smith. "I do view challenges as opportunities in disguise, when you receive ‘feedback’ that you didn’t meet the mark, lean in and go after it again."

"Success takes multiple forms and is often difficult to recognize, if someone tells you that ‘you can’t.’ Consider what question you asked and what answer they provided. Use your resources and the powerful team of shipmates around you to help you evaluate what you want to accomplish from multiple perspectives and then re-attack."

Google Translation Disclaimer

  • Google Translate, a third party service provided by Google, performs all translations directly and dynamically.
  • Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, has no control over the features, functions, or performance of the Google Translate service.
  • The automated translations should not be considered exact and should be used only as an approximation of the original English language content.
  • This service is meant solely for the assistance of limited English-speaking users of the website.
  • Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, does not warrant the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of any information translated.
  • Some items cannot be translated, including but not limited to image buttons, drop down menus, graphics, photos, or portable document formats (pdfs).
  • Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, does not directly endorse Google Translate or imply that it is the only language translation solution available to users.
  • All site visitors may choose to use similar tools for their translation needs. Any individuals or parties that use Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, content in translated form, whether by Google Translate or by any other translation services, do so at their own risk.
  • IE users: Please note that Google Translate may not render correctly when using Internet Explorer. Users are advised to use MS Edge, Safari, Chrome, or Firefox browser to take full advantage of the Google Translate feature.
  • The official text of content on this site is the English version found on this website. If any questions arise related to the accuracy of the information contained in translated text, refer to the English version on this website, it is the official version.

Commander, Navy Region Hawaii   |   850 Ticonderoga St   |   Pearl Harbor, HI 96860-5101
Official U.S. Navy Website