Chief Petty Officer Miguel Resto, a dedicated company commander at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, passed through the gates of the training center for the very first time in 2008 as a young recruit with very little understanding of the English language.
As a Spanish speaker coming from Puerto Rico, he brought an English-Spanish dictionary with him to boot camp, but it was confiscated and put into a box for him until he graduated or was disenrolled from training. He had to rely on the little English he learned when he paid out of pocket to take some English 101 courses back home in Puerto Rico.
Boot camp was rough, said Resto. He had one shipmate who helped him out with the slang that his company commanders and fellow recruits were using in training, but for everything else, it depended on him to understand what was going on and get through to graduation.
Going through a high-stress environment with the additional stressor of not knowing much of the language made it nearly impossible, but Resto’s determination, along with the confidence given to him by one of his company commanders, led him to graduate boot camp in 2008.
Now, Resto has returned to the training center as a company commander and section commander to help and inspire other Coast Guard recruits, including the Spanish speakers who are struggling to overcome a language barrier as Resto once did.
Senior Chief Petty Officer David Knapp, a section commander at Training Center Cape May, works with Resto on the regiment, overseeing basic recruit training and assessing who moves forward to graduation and who is reverted because they need more time.
However, back in 2008 when Resto was going through boot camp as a recruit, Knapp was one of Resto’s original company commanders, and he had to make a decision whether to move Seaman Recruit Resto back in training or not.
“We would tell him to do push-ups, and he would do jumping jacks,” said Knapp. “There was a really obvious language barrier there, and we could see he was just struggling. We decided that we were going to send him back in training so he could have more time to improve his language skills and get the hang of things.”
When the time had finally come to break the news, Seaman Recruit Resto was pulled from training and was brought into Knapp’s office so he could receive his reassignment to a new company.
“When we told him the news, he pleaded with us to not send him back in company,” said Knapp. “He told us, ‘I am better than this. Please, I have a wife and a daughter back home that I need to do this for. I’ll do anything. I’ll stay up late after hours to learn English, I will do anything.’”
After seeing the passion and drive that Resto demonstrated during his plea, Knapp said that he believed him, and told Resto that he’d better not fail him.
“He said, ‘I won’t let you down, and I will do this for you,’” said Knapp. “And that’s what he did. He didn’t let me down, and he graduated with the rest of his company. Now he’s back on the regiment with me as my equal, helping others.”
Resto graduated boot camp as promised on June 27, 2008, and moved to his first unit aboard Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant in Fort Pierce, Florida, with his wife and daughter.
Once there, Resto continued to improve his English proficiency. In October 2009, Resto went to his storekeeper “A” school in Petaluma, California, and became a third class petty officer. He was assigned to Sector Northern New England in South Portland, Maine, and advanced to second class petty officer in July 2011. Resto was then assigned back to Coast Guard Training Center Cape May in June 2013, where he later advanced to first class petty officer two years later.
While Resto was working as a storekeeper in the procurement shop at the training center in 2015, he was approached by Chief Petty…