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Former Colombian Navy Commander Inducted Into NPS Hall of Fame

Former Colombian Navy Commander Inducted Into NPS Hall of Fame

NPS Distinguished Professor Dr. Herschel Loomis, left, congratulates retired Colombian Navy Adm. Guillermo Barrera on his induction into the NPS Hall of Fame. Barrera, a 1983 NPS graduate, was honored for his 40-year naval career, culminating in his service as Commander of the Colombian Navy from 2006-2010. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James Norket)

The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) honored retired Colombian Navy Adm. Guillermo E. Barrera for his lifetime of service, both to his country and to the United States, by inducting him as the 30th member of the school’s prestigious Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Herrmann Hall, March 28.

Barrera, a 1983 NPS graduate who currently serves as a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., was recognized not only as an NPS alumnus, but also as a dedicated leader who worked selflessly to improve the safety and security of Colombia while serving as his nation’s top naval officer. 

“He was part of the governmental team that transformed Colombia from the brink of failure to stability and democracy with a people-centric approach,” said retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau, president of NPS. “He did this at great risk to his own life and to the life of his family.”

Rear Adm. James Aiken, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. Fourth Fleet, presented Barrera with his Hall of Fame medallion.

Barrera’s 40-year career in the Colombian Navy began when he was commissioned as a surface warfare officer in 1971. As a junior officer, Barrera attended NPS in the early 1980s, graduating with a master’s degree in electrical and electronic engineering and completing his thesis on digital controls for hard drive systems.

Later, Barrera was selected for command both afloat and ashore, and commanded the patrol boat ARC Fritz Hagale, the buoy tender ARC Gorgona, and the frigate ARC Almirate Padilla. He also returned to school in the U.S., graduating from the Naval War College in 1993.

Upon achieving flag rank, Barrera was assigned as commander of the Colombian Coast Guard, a component of the Colombian Navy. From there, he served on the Colombian Joint Staff as Chief of Joint Integrated Action (J5), commanded Colombian naval forces in the Caribbean, and served as the navy’s Chief of Operations. 

In 2006, Barrera was appointed as Commander of the Colombian Navy by President Alvaro Uribe, and would hold that post through 2010. He was a key member of the nation’s leadership team which brought Colombia greater security and stability.

Barrera used his NPS degree and academic prowess to align the strategic vision of the Colombian Navy with the whole-of-government approach of Colombia’s national policies.

“What's interesting about the admiral’s journey is that it exemplifies the profound value of education, and the unwavering commitment to giving back to future leaders,” said Rondeau. “His career, marked by dynamic leadership and dedication, showcases the transformative power of not only education for military officers, but of making that education matter to how his officers led.”

Under Barrera, the Colombian Navy took part in fleet exercises, tactical development events, and combined operations with U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard assets under the operational control of Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S).

During his time working with the U.S. Navy and other international partners, Barrera formed many lasting relationships and connections, many of which continue to this day.

While delivering her remarks, Rondeau relayed congratulations from retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a fellow NPS Hall of Fame inductee who worked closely with Barrera during their naval service.

“He's a great man, a heroic man, a man of the Navy, and a man who I highly regard as truly a friend,” said Mullen. 

In his remarks, Barrera reflected on the relationships he developed during his time at NPS.

“Many wonderful memories come to my mind,” recalled Barrera. “The first one, probably my professor of electronics at the very beginning of my time here, he said something that I did not expect: ‘Remember, kids, that you have families. One day, your uniforms will be in the closet forever, your awards will be in a special place, but the only thing that will stay with you are your families.’ And I added, with time, a little bit more: ‘…and your friends, if you were able to cultivate them.’”

Barrera added that the rigor of achieving his master’s degree from NPS taught him a valuable lesson about the power of knowledge and, in his words, gave him “the will to learn.” Reflecting on his experience, Barrera said he kept in touch with many of the professors and friends he made during his time at NPS as well as the Naval War College.

“When I left, I kept communications with my professors for some time,” he said. “And I remember them with a special love, because they helped me to learn not only the technological things but also the human things.”

Barrera returned to NPS as a vice admiral in the summer of 2005 for a Defense Resource Management Institute (DRMI) course. He was invited to give a speech to National Security Affairs (NSA) students regarding the challenges Colombia was facing at the time.

“In 2005 I was in DRMI … another level, quite important, quite relevant. That helped me also to project myself more into the future,” Barrera said. “What I learned along those years is that the beginning of my education started here and cannot end until I die.”

After his retirement in 2011, Barrera went back to the Naval War College as the first Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Distinguished International Fellow.

“Thank you very much to the Naval Postgraduate School, that together, with the Naval War College, allowed me to be a better human being,” Barrera said. “Not a perfect one. I have committed many mistakes, but learning from them and being able to recover, that is the most important part. 

“I learned here to love and serve my family, to love and serve my friends, to love and serve my countries – because I am also American – and humanity. Because that is the responsibility of a great power.”

Watch the ceremony video on the NPS YouTube channel.

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