A 2009 Deep Creek High School graduate and Chesapeake, Virginia native is currently serving as a class officer and course instructor at Officer Training Command Newport (OTCN) in Rhode Island.
Lt. Cheyenne Harinandan is part of a dedicated team that transforms civilians and fleet Sailors into future naval officers.
Harinandan has served at OTCN since July 2020. In addition to her role as a class officer, she instructs both a cyber warfare and watch officer course. Over the past ten months, she has overseen the professional and personal development of more than 300 officer candidates.
“Our team puts a lot of focus on mentorship training,” said Harinandan. “I give examples of real challenges I’ve encountered in the fleet and what I did to overcome them. We give them a good basis of ethics and morals and how that is the groundwork for strong leadership.”
Harinandan said another foundational principle of leadership is acquiring tools to keep mental health in a positive condition. To help the officer candidates explore ways to de-stress, she leads an extracurricular yoga practice and meditation group on base once a week.
“Practicing yoga and meditating forces me to spend time working on myself both physically and mentally,” said Harinandan. “It helps guides me towards inner peace which is especially important since the Navy is a demanding profession that requires the sharpest minds and strongest bodies.”
Harinandan is the daughter of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jadeo Harinandan. He was born in Guyana, South America, but his family’s heritage traces back to India.
She emphasized the importance of recognizing the contributions made from her fellow Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) service members in the past while making her own now.
“If we don’t know our past, we aren’t able to shape our futures. It recognizes the contributions that were made by the service members before us,” she said. “The contribution that I want to pass on, and that that helps me stay healthy, is the practice of mediation and yoga. It is an individual practice that takes time to build and strengthen. But it can be done practically anywhere, anytime, no matter where you are in the world.”
Harinandan says she believes yoga is a great example of how interconnected the world is.
“An ancient Indian practice has been adopted by the modern western world. It’s as common as a daily cup of coffee for millions of people. I feel a sense of pride knowing that a practice created by my distant ancestors has had such a positive impact on so many people, all from different cultures and walks of life,” said Harinandan. “By celebrating the accomplishments of people that are in my life today, I am keeping the spirit of interconnectedness and inclusion alive.”
Harinandan said her mother, Kathryn Harinandan, has also made an impact on the people and world around her. She is a registered nurse assigned to the behavioral health unit at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia and has been influential to her decision to incorporate wellness practices in her daily routine.
“My mother has seen firsthand the importance of mental health within the military,” said Harinandan. “The ability of a person to implement mindfulness tools can immensely impact their quality of life, both personally and professionally. At the end of the day, you cannot complete the mission of the Navy without ensuring your mental health is taken care of. Everything is connected - it is so valuable to have tools that can help just as much at home as out to sea.”
Harinandan has served much time at sea and has been stationed in a variety of places throughout her career. Her first assignment was to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52). She traveled with the ship as it shifted homeports from Norfolk, Virginia to Yokosuka, Japan in 2016.
“I don’t just have a special connection with the USS Barry because it was my first ship, said Harinandan. “My maternal grandfather, David Shears Sr., was a Newport News shipyard worker for 44 years and actually did construction on the ship. My grandparents on both sides took the jobs that no one else wanted, all to help give their families a better life. My family made sacrifices to put me at an advantage, and I want to perpetuate that cycle of growth.”
Harinandan said that knowledge, learning new things and being open to broader perspectives is an imperative component to expanding her ability to help others. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Old Dominion University and earned her commission in the Navy through ROTC in 2013. She continued on to earn a master’s degree in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2020.
OTCN morally, mentally, and physically develops future leaders of character and competence - imbuing them with the highest ideals of honor, courage, and commitment in order to serve as professional Naval officers worthy of special trust and confidence.
For more information on OTCN, visit https://www.netc.navy.mil/NSTC/OTCN.