June 20 was a special day for Army 1st Sgt. Anthony Farinosi. A quick ceremony on a flight line in the middle of a combat zone marked his first day as a full-fledged, diamond-wearing first sergeant.
His new job with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, isn’t his first time filling the role as a company’s top enlisted soldier. During a previous deployment in Iraq, Farinosi held the position in the aviation intermediate maintenance company for 412th Aviation Support Battalion when he was a sergeant first class.
It was an experience, the Irvine, Calif., native said, that he has yearned for ever since.
“My best time in the Army has been when I worked as a first sergeant,” Farinosi said. “I had 235 soldiers who were just like my kids. If I can influence one kid or keep him on the right track, then I feel like I was successful.”
“First sergeant” is one of several titles Farinosi is proud of. Farinosi also is “Dad” to two teenage boys, but he’s most proud of another title that he said fits all areas of his life: “coach.”
Since his arrival in Germany in 2003, Farinosi has been coaching for a German community soccer club, Sportverein Oberreichenbach. Farinosi’s team now competes in the 17- to 18-year-old bracket.
“Coaching is amazing because of the influence you can have on a kid,” he said. “For a lot of them, the happiest time of their day is when they’re playing soccer. They’re training hard, learning and getting better. It’s a great thing to be around.”
During his time as a coach, three of the athletes he’s helped mentor have been recruited to play at the Division 1 level, the highest in a country where soccer is the national sport. One of his players has even played for the German national team for his age group.
Farinosi said cultural differences are no longer an issue, as the players are older and have become used to him and his sons, who also play for the club.
“The German kids have really accepted us,” he said. “I see them around town and they smile and they get excited to see me, because I take the time to work with them. That makes me feel really good. I don’t have all the answers, but I can show them what they’re doing wrong and help them find the right way to do it.”
His new commander, Capt. Barbara Burger, who also worked with him in 412th Aviation Support Battalion, said Farinosi’s ability to mentor and motivate transcends the soccer field.
“He teaches his soldiers what he expects of them and then lets them make their own decisions,” she said.
Farinosi said the jobs go hand in hand and that doing one often helps him with the other.
“Coaching helps with patience, and the first sergeant job teaches me a lot of structure that I can apply toward coaching,” he said. “As the kids on my team get older, they like to joke around and get a little lippy sometimes - just like soldiers. Some of my soldiers are only a couple of years older than the kids on my team.”
Because he’s been deployed for nearly a year, Farinosi has missed a full season of soccer. He’ll be back in Germany in time for one more season before it’s time to leave Europe. Ultimately though, he said he wants to return to Germany someday with a new title: “teacher.”
“I’m going to get my teaching certificate and become a teacher and coach, hopefully at a Department of Defense school in Germany,” Farinosi said. “My dad always told me that if you always do the right thing, you never have to worry about things going wrong. My goal has always been to take care of people, no matter who they are.”