The deputy master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard retired after 31 years of service.
Command Master Chief Charles “Rob” Bushey, only the second to hold the role, says he originally enlisted in 1991 to serve one tour.
“I was a four-year coastie who just wanted to do his four years and get money for college. And then I said, ‘Alright, I’ll stay for a while,’” Bushey said.
But, he added, he was immediately hooked on the multifaceted mission of the service.
Before taking on what is known as “badge” leadership roles within the service, he was an operator. Five years later, Bushey became part of the Coast Guard’s elite Tactical Law Enforcement Team. His next tours included leading as the executive officer and officer-in-charge aboard stations and patrol boats. By 2011, he was encouraged to apply for the badge program.
“The first year [as a badge] was a challenge for me. I had to leave being a boatswain’s mate and that was everything I had done before and a part of who I was,” he explained. “It’s the diversity of the command senior enlisted leader program which makes the program so effective, and being able to speak — and relate to — the entire workforce was critical.”
Bushey was the gold badge command master chief for District Eleven and eventually served as the command senior enlisted leader for the Atlantic Area, spanning the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. In 2018, he was asked to serve as the deputy MCPOCG.
“Never thought in the world that I’d have a desire to do it or that any admiral out there would even give me an interview,” he said. “When you’re competing at that level with those types of people, you’re just amazed that you’re even able to sit at the same bar drinking from the same tap, in a way. It’s exciting.”
The role includes mentoring and working alongside the service’s most senior enlisted members on a wide range of issues impacting the Coast Guard — as well as being an official advisor to the MCPOCG and vice commandant.
During his tenure, the service saw several unprecedented challenges ranging from a partial government shutdown to a global pandemic. But the Coast Guard also saw something new — more visibility and long-awaited recognition. This came with a congressional budget aimed at providing the vital resources to more fully support its vast mission set and improving the quality of life for Coast Guard families, Bushey added.
As he reflects on three decades as a coastie, he says he’s proud of how far the Coast Guard has come.
“We’re moving in the right direction. I think we’re putting emphasis and funding where it needs to be to continue down this track,” he said. “We’ve had great support from the administration, both the Trump administration and now the Biden administration. They understand the Coast Guard and I think our reputation lends credibility to who we are and what we are and what we’re trying to accomplish and the services that we provide to the nation. I think there’s a lot of intrinsic value in telling our story.”
He is looking forward to life after the Coast Guard and retirement.
“If the commandant or detailer called me with one more assignment — I’d have taken it in a heartbeat,” he said. “But I know the service is in good hands. Adm. Fagan, Adm. Poulin and MCPOCG Jones definitely have what it takes to keep us moving the ball down the field and though I’ll watch from a distance, I’ll still watch.”
Though he’s been approached for a number of unique opportunities, Bushey plans to enjoy the first few months of retirement before making any future career decisions.
“There will be a lot of fishing, camping and family time. But the likelihood of me coming back to Washington DC is pretty slim,” he laughed.
As for advice he would give to other aspiring leaders in any branch of service, it was direct.
“I’ve learned over time that you have to get to know somebody before you can assume that you know who they are or what their challenges are,” Bushey shared. “What makes you a good leader is your ability to communicate, your passion and your sincerity on making improvements for our people and the mission. It has been an honor to serve as a Coast Guard command senior enlisted leader and I look forward to seeing all that our service accomplishes in the years ahead.”Read comments