AT SEA - Thirty two-year-old Bothvill Valtin, a Hallandale, Fla., native, didn’t expect much from the Marine Corps when he joined fresh out of high school in July 2000.
He didn’t expect that he’d be able to attend college while in the service.
He didn’t expect that he’d be involved in helicopter operations or that he’d accompany special operations units.
He didn’t expect to see Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, or Singapore.
He didn’t expect to gain self-confidence or become a powerful orator.
He didn’t expect to become a leader of men.
“The only thing I thought I was going to be able to do is have a GI Bill and gain the discipline to go to school,” said Valtin.
Valtin only planned on one tour in the Military. He made it through the grueling challenges of Marine basic training and, for 13 years, has endured the physical and emotional demands of serving his country, including separation from his wife and three daughters.
“To be able to do all these things and honestly still love to be in the military is pretty amazing,” said Valtin.
After his years of hard work as an enlisted Marine, Valtin has risen to the esteemed rank of Gunnery Sergeant, but is now transitioning to become a surface warfare officer in the U.S Navy.
“I know that starting off as an ensign, or a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, is not the top of the totem pole,” said Valtin. “But I know the position that I’m in can really influence other service members the same way officers in my life have made a tremendous difference on me.”
Valtin has dreamed of leading since he met his first commissioned officer in basic training, and has repeatedly applied for a commission while in the Corps.
There have been a lot of opportunities in the Marine Corps, said Valtin. But the Marines never offered the chance to become a commissioned officer. The Navy did.
Valtin insists that Marines belong at sea, and has previously served aboard the wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) in his role as a Marine.
“Whenever general quarters sounded, or any other drills, I was not a part of them,” said Valtin. “I never really lived the sailor’s life.”
Valtin has recently embarked on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) to shadow surface warfare officers as he works towards his commission.
“I’ve had the opportunity to conn the ship and serve as a helmsman,” said Valtin. “It’s incredible that I’ve had that opportunity already and to be able to see the things Navy sailors do on a day to day basis.”
The Marines and the Navy have long been competing sister services, but Valtin doesn’t feel like he’s starting over in a rival branch. Instead, he says that he feels like a new Marine.
“What I’ve seen here in my two weeks here is that, yes, we’re different branches, but we’re on the same mission,” said Valtin.
Valtin has gained a lot of experience from his years as an enlisted member of the Marine Corps. He has learned to serve and to lead. He has been deployed all over Asia, and has been able to support a growing family. He even managed to get his GI Bill, which he says he is passing on to his daughters. Now, he is looking forward to the opportunity to lead in the United States Navy.
“My goal is to go as far as the Navy will take me,” said Valtin. “The military has been great to me for the past 13 and a half years. My biggest struggle has been being separated from my family. But, if they can handle it, then I can handle it as well.”