National Hispanic Heritage Month: Mery-Angela Sanabria Katson, U.S. Navy

During a career in the U.S. Navy that spanned nearly four decades, Mery-Angela Sanbria Katson firmly established herself as a trailblazer in that military branch. Katson had been born in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota. In 1970, Katson immigrated with her family to the United States. They ended up residing in the city of New Rochelle in southeastern New York.

In 1982 — when she was only 16 years old — Katson enlisted in the Navy. She was able to do so after persuading her widowed mother to sign the necessary paperwork for recruits under the age of 18.

After she went through boot camp at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida, Katson reported for duty on board the support ship USS Point Loma (AGDS-2). It was during this time that she became a naturalized U.S. citizen. With strong encouragement from USS Loma’s commanding officer, Katson also attended the University of San Diego on a full scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in just three years. Her educational achievements would eventually also include two master’s degrees. In addition, Katson received an executive certificate in public leadership from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Katson was commissioned an officer in 1991. She earned her surface warfare officer (SWO) qualifications while serving aboard the support ship USS Acadia (AD-42).

Katson was subsequently assigned to the U.S. Naval Academy, where she served as an adjunct instructor in the following courses: Naval Leadership and Ethics; and Basic Shipboard Tactics and Maneuvering. At this point in her military career, Katson changed her designation from SWO to human resource officer.

Over the next 30 years, Katson invested much of her expertise, and energies into promoting naval careers for young people and helping to facilitate their entry into that military branch. “She believes in and practices the three ‘ships’: Leadership, Mentorship, and Sponsorship,” noted a 2021 profile of her that was prepared by Naval History and Heritage Command.  

Katson’s positions during this stage of her career included serving as the executive officer and then commanding officer of the Navy Recruiting District based in San Antonio, Texas. She was also the Navy’s diversity and inclusion officer. In addition, Katson served as head of the education strategy and policy branch of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. She retired from the Navy in 2022.

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

Additional information on Mery-Angela Sanbria Katson and other Hispanic Americans who have served in the U.S. Navy is available at

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