Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: Chief Petty Officer Robert Florisi

Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Nease

Chief Petty Officer Robert Florisi, a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer pauses for a photo while sitting in an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, March 6, 2016 at Air Station Corpus Christi. Florisi was selected from 32 other nominees for the E-7 and above category of the 2016 Inspirational Leadership Award. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Nease.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Florisi, a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer pauses for a photo while sitting in an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, March 6, 2016 at Air Station Corpus Christi. Florisi was selected from 32 other nominees for the E-7 and above category of the 2016 Inspirational Leadership Award. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Nease.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Florisi, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, has not always been a Coastie.

He first joined the Marine Corps at age 17. But, as a radio repairman, he wasn’t fully satisfied with his work. Not able to change ratings, he completed his five-year agreement and separated.

Within two weeks, he was looking to join the military again, but this time, he discovered the Coast Guard. Florisi said he didn’t even know about the Coast Guard and its missions until his first visit to the recruiter’s office.

After watching a couple of VHS videos at the recruiter’s office, Florisi said he saw a video of a rescue swimmer jumping out of a helicopter and said that if I’m that guy, I will sign the contract right now.

After joining in 1997, Florisi followed his desire to become a rescue swimmer by attending job-specific training at Coast Guard aviation survival technician (AST) “A-school.”

“A-school was a lot more physically demanding than the Marine Corps,” said Florisi. “My fondest memory, by far, is graduating AST A-school on March 19, 1999. There was no way I could have known how great of a life joining the Coast Guard and becoming a swimmer would give me.”

Now, as a chief petty officer, Florisi faces added leadership challenges and opportunities. It’s also been an opportunity for him to make a difference by implementing his own leadership style at the air station.

“The hardest thing for me when I became a chief is probably what many have experienced,” explained Florisi. “I had to take my hands out of daily work and only guide. Letting people make mistakes I made so they can learn, but watching over them in the perfect amount to keep them from going too far, was difficult.”

There are some basic rules Florisi has implemented in his shop, which he accredits to his team’s cohesiveness. His standards for good order and discipline have evolved from what he said he learned from his observations as a junior member. He sets the example as he expects his junior members to greet everyone with a smile, a willingness to help, and respect.

“His lead-by-example and family-first leadership style, positively impacted not only his team, but members up and down the chain of command at Sector Corpus Christi,” said Cmdr. James Spitler, Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi engineering officer.

That leadership style has set him apart at his unit. Florisi was recently recognized with the 2015 Master Chief Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership award. He was selected from a group of 32 other nominees nationwide.

(Right to Left) Chief Petty Officer Robert Florisi, a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, pauses for a photo with fellow rescue swimmers from the AST shop, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Mcconnell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Wilson, March 6, 2016 at Air Station Corpus Christi. Florisi was selected from 32 other nominees for the E-7 and above category of the 2016 Inspirational Leadership Award. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Nease.

(Right to Left) Chief Petty Officer Robert Florisi, a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, pauses for a photo with fellow rescue swimmers from the AST shop, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Mcconnell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Wilson, March 6, 2016 at Air Station Corpus Christi. Florisi was selected from 32 other nominees for the E-7 and above category of the 2016 Inspirational Leadership Award. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jennifer Nease.

The award originated in memory of Angela McShan, a Coast Guard master chief petty officer who passed away in December 2000. McShan has been described as a positive, kind, and motivational person. Florisi exemplifies similar characteristics, as noted by his supervisor, therefore honoring her memory.

“Although I’m sure the selection process was very competitive, Chief Florisi was an excellent selection for the Angela McShan award. Through his leadership, the AST shop is operating at a performance level that I’ve never seen before in my career,” said Spitler. “Even though they are a group of highly competitive and successful individuals, they are first and foremost, a family. He treats every interaction with subordinates and peers as an opportunity to personally assist them with their struggles. This intrusive leadership has served his team well and bred an environment of stellar performers and dedicated Coast Guard members.”

Florisi doesn’t take all the credit, though. He recognizes his fellow Coast Guard men and women who have made a lasting impact on him, and have helped him every step of the way – through the good and the bad.

“The truth is, every leader I had was a good mentor,” said Florisi. “Although, many taught me what I would not do when I was able to get through the ranks, but I have taken the good and bad from everyone.”

The Inspirational Leadership Awards are sponsored by the Coast Guard’s Office of Leadership and serve to recognize those Coast Guard men and women who demonstrate proficiency in leadership and best exemplify the Coast Guard’s core values of values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.

Do you know someone who embodies the Coast Guard Core Values of Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.

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