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CDR Raphael Castillejo

A native of Makati, Philippines, Commander Castillejo graduated from Virginia Tech in 2000 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and received his commission through the Enlisted Commissioning Program. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from George Washington University.

Commander Castillejo has served at sea as Electrical Officer on USS TRENTON (LPD 14), Navigator on USS CURTIS WILBUR (DDG 54), Weapons Officer and Combat Systems Officer on USS STERETT (DDG 104), Executive Officer on USS LAKE ERIE (CG 70), and Commanding Officer on USS STOCKDALE (DDG 106).

Commander Castillejo has served ashore as Chief of Exercises and Experiments, and Lead of the Maritime Surveillance Initiative at National Reconnaissance Office, Chantilly, VA. Additionally, he served as Deputy N8 at Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center in San Diego, CA.


How has failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?

Everybody fails, everybody. It is part of the growing processes. You have to do two things in the face of failure. First is to learn from it. If you make a mistake, and you have the ability to corrected, do it immediately. If you can’t correct it, learn from it and become a better person from it. Second is to never give up and never become negative because of failure. Those who give up, let the failure defeat them. And those who become negative, push the failure onto others.

Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?

I have adapted several lessons from my former leaders into a list of rules to live by in this profession:

CDR Castillejo’s 18 Rules for SWO Life (My Apologies to the Dalai Lama)

1 Do what is right for your Sailors and treat them with respect.

2 Integrity is everything.

3 Be receptive to criticism and be aware of your reputation. Things don’t have to be true, if enough people believe that they are.

4 Constantly work on your communication. Chances are it is one of your biggest weaknesses.

5 No matter how bad your day is, always remain positive in front of the troops.

6 Nothing ever goes perfectly, always account for set and drift.

7 One hour of planning on your part at the end of every day, will save dozens if not hundreds of man-hours every week.

8 Management is about direct results. Leadership is about 2nd and 3rd order effects.

9 When you lose – and you will lose - don’t lose the lesson.

10 Never ever revel in someone else’s defeat. Other people’s downfalls should never, ever be your victories.

11 Learn the rules well, so when you break them, you break them properly.

12 If you realize you have made a mistake, take immediate and positive steps to correct it.

13 Silence is sometimes the best answer.

14 Second tours and Department Heads: Share your knowledge, it’s a way to create a legacy, and by extension immortality.

15 Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

16 Protect the environment, the earth, the air and the oceans, just as you protect your ship and your home.

17 Judge your success, not by how much you have accomplished, but by what you had to give up to achieve it.

18 Finally, don’t let a shipboard dispute injure a great friendship, don’t take it personally, don’t look into someone else’s intentions and don’t act petty. Stay above the fray. Be respectful, care for your shipmates, and above all else be generous with your time.

What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Do you have a morning routine?

Time is short for a leader. A good routine is key for maximizing your time and minimizing mistakes and not forgetting important aspects of the day. My morning routine, alarm goes off (never hit snooze), quick make bed, shower, shave, check calendar, have Alexa tell me the weather, get dressed, drink water, make breakfast and lunch, eat breakfast, pack bags and leave. I try to put everything I need to know for the day in my planner, which I check prior to getting dressed. I am a single dad every other week, so my morning become just a little more complicated when I have my kids, but the routine gets me through the morning. I wake up my kids after I get dressed and get them started on getting dressed, and I make breakfast as they dress themselves. I make sure they eat before they leave and pack a snack for them in case they get hungry. I check their homework and get them cleaned up at night so I don’t have to worry about it in the morning. Routine, routine, routine.

What career advice would you give a smart and driven young SWO? What advice should they ignore?

Spend time with your people and become a SWO community person early, it will pay dividends later on in your career. Specifically, go into any task with professional curiosity, attend SWO and SNA functions, seek mentors, request community jobs, learn to be a better warfighter and most of all, help other SWOs when you can. Don’t fall into the trap of blaming or demonizing your leadership, even if it is popular amongst your peers. Chances are your leaders want the best for you and your career.

What is the book you’ve given most as a gift and why?

I don’t give books as a gift very often, but when I do, I give military history books that I find have a lesson and are motivating. I also give blank diary type books because I find writing down thoughts both reflective and therapeutic.

How do you set priorities and manage time?

I am a list maker. I have a list of things I need to accomplish, usually on a sticky note I keep in my planner. When I have free time, I refer to the sticky for the things I need to do. All the important things go on the calendar, with a time slot. I also like having an online calendar for work, so others can add to my calendar. When I am really busy, I focus on the things I “must” do, and I do them immediately, or schedule them to be accomplished as soon as possible. I never let something go over a day, if someone else is waiting for it.

What is your most effective daily habit?

My most effective daily habit is the time I spend updating my calendar and creating my list. It not only organizes my week, but allows me to reflect on the day and what was important and useful.

How do you define success?

Success is always learning, developing relationships, accomplishing tasks and continual improvement. It is governed, not by accomplishments, but by sacrifices.

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