Editor’s note: This instructor profile is part of a series profiling some of the best instructors and company commanders at Training Center Cape May, N.J. Force Readiness Command will be featuring outstanding instructors regularly who go above and beyond to help shape the future of the Coast Guard at our eight training centers. Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa Zammiello is a senior instructor at Training Center Cape May and helps lead the unit’s firefighting school.
Written by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska
What made you decide to become an instructor?
I actually didn’t put in for this billet. I was stationed at Industrial down in Portsmouth, Va., and after the Coast Guard Modernization, my billet was turned into a civilian job. The assignment officer told me he was going to keep me in Virginia since I literally just transferred from Homer, Alaska, but that didn’t happen. I was there less than a year before I was notified about the transfer. I opened up my email one day, and there were my orders to Training Center Cape May, N.J.!!
What do you find most rewarding in your role as an instructor?
This is by far the most rewarding and humbling job I’ve had so far in my Coast Guard career. I have grown tremendously as a leader and petty officer. I know how much the recruits enjoy the practical portion of basic training, and I really enjoy being a part in that. Also, seeing the recruits go from civilians to actual squared away military members is rewarding to me. Especially when I get to shake their hands at graduation, and they tell me “thank you” for everything that I’ve done.
What are some lessons you have learned from the students?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned working with the recruits is that patience goes a long way. Also, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
Where do you want to go for your next assignment, and how will this tour as an instructor help you in your career?
I recently submitted my package for company commander school because I’ve really enjoyed being a part of recruit training and I’m ready to take it a step further. Being already instructor qualified will definitely help because public speaking isn’t something that gives me cold sweats anymore.
Share a memorable anecdote or “sea story” from your time as an instructor…or, describe the most significant challenge you have overcome as an instructor.
It’s hard to pick one thing out in particular. Just when I thought I’ve seen everything, the recruits surprise me with something else!
Describe some new or innovative methods or equipment you are using in the classroom.
I try to get the recruits involved as much as possible to keep them engaged. Not so much with equipment, but more so in discussions and hands on evolutions.
How do you ensure that you keep current, teaching students the most up-to-date information and skills they will need?
I’ve always been one to do my research. I stay up to date with the subject matter we teach via the Coast Guard web and other sources.
Are there specific experiences, skills, or knowledge you have found helpful in this tour as an instructor?
Being an experienced damage controlman has helped with my tour because I am able to relate a good majority of the subject matter I teach to the recruits using a lot of sea stories and examples from the fleet.
What would you say to someone who is considering a tour as an instructor?
It’s not for everyone. You have to want to do the job because the recruits can tell when you don’t want to be there. Even though I never saw myself doing this job and I didn’t have a choice, I made the best of it, and it’s been one of the best experiences in my career.
Who do you think would make a great instructor? What would you say to encourage them to pursue assignment to an instructor billet?
If someone has a passion to help others and wants to be in a leadership position, then being an instructor is definitely a good job to add to the resume.