National Hispanic Heritage Month: CDR John Barresi

CDR Barresi

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. 

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, five members of Coast Guard 17th District will be featured September 29 through October 3.

Commander John Barresi, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Civil Engineering Unit Juneau

Barresi originally served as a Navy officer and in 1995 was commissioned in the Coast Guard as an inter-service transfer. Barresi reported to CEU Juneau from the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Md., the service’s only major industrial shipyard, where he served as Facilities Engineer.

His first Coast Guard tour was in Facilities Engineering at the Coast Guard Academy as Safety Officer and Project Manager. Subsequent assignments include Civil Engineering Unit Miami, Facilities Design and Construction Center, and Detached Duty at Base New Orleans as the Director of Gulf Coast Reconstruction for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana and Mississippi (Barresi was the 2010 Coast Guard Engineer of the Year for his work in the Gulf Coast).

Barresi graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He earned his postgraduate degree in Building Construction and Integrated Facilities Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Virginia.

Barresi is a native of Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Why did you choose to serve in the Coast Guard?

I actually choose the Navy first, I had a desire to serve our country and the Navy provided me with an amazing opportunity… an academic scholarship. With “free money” there are always strings. My obligation included maintaining good grades in my specialty so I could attend OCS. If I didn’t the Navy would have rewarded me with a ticket to boot camp and a four year enlisted contract. That was enough incentive for me to keep my grades up.

In 1995 there was an opportunity to join the Coast Guard as an engineer but the Navy wanted me to finish out my obligated service for the scholarship, so they worked out a deal. One day I was on an aircraft carrier wearing a khaki uniform and a short time later I was in blue at my first Coast Guard unit.

My transfer to the Coast Guard was a wonderful life event… it allowed me to continue to serve our nation and to work in a career field that I love. Ultimately, it was an opportunity for me to give back and at times I do feel like I’m getting so much more in return. Is a job “work” when you enjoy what you do?

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your career?

I’ve learned many things in my career and here are the ones that I want to share, please note that they’re not in any particular order:

  • Pick something you will enjoy and work hard to excel in it.
  • Be trustworthy, reliable, and dependable – keep showing up and volunteer for the big stuff.
  • Don’t get discouraged, especially by mistakes or failures. I believe success and character are measured by how we recover from these events.
  • Know when to ask for help.
  • Be a champion for others, especially the ones that need it.
  • Lean what’s under your control; let go of the distractions.
  • Relax, be nice and avoid hostility… find the balance.
  • Take care of your family and yourself.

How has being a part of a sea-going service impacted your life?

Being part of a sea-going service expanded my horizons. My father was in the Navy for 32-years and I heard all his sea stories, but experiencing those things first hand on my first deployment with the Navy was amazing. When you get to put your feet down in a faraway place, it helps you understand and celebrate diversity. By serving in the Navy and the Coast Guard I’ve had unique opportunities to expand my world views.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the positive influences and traditions that Hispanic Americans have enriched our nation with. What does it mean to you to celebrate this month in the Coast Guard?

I feel very privileged to be a part of an organization that values the diversity of its work force and allows members to succeed on their own merit.

People take some things for granted… the freedoms we enjoy aren’t free and for our way of life to continue, some people have to protect those rights. I believe serving our country and protecting our freedoms is an honorable calling and it’s something that I want to instill in my children.

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