Kevin Berto NB’09 took advantage of every opportunity afforded him during his time at Culver Summer Schools & Camps. While a member of the Summer Naval Band, he earned his Small Boat, Keelboat, and Costal Navigation certifications from US Sailing.
“That’s where I discovered my interest in everything military and navy,” he told the Lake County News-Sun (Ill.). “I learned how to sail, I learned how to navigate. . . . Not everyone got to take a boat out on the water and learn how to operate it, and I just got a certain joy and satisfaction out of being able to command my own little sailboat.”
Now, Berto is preparing to graduate from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in June and is scheduled to accept a direct commission as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. In January, he finished his 2013 appointment as regimental commander – leading the corps of 700 midshipmen.
Berto is the third person connected to Culver to lead a military academy in recent years. Keegan Kinkade ’06 was the brigade commander at the Naval Academy in the spring of 2011 and Charlie Phelps ’08 served as the first captain at West Point for 2011-2012 school year.
Berto, who is a 2010 graduate from Lake Forest Academy in suburban Chicago, said he knew he wanted to serve his country. During his junior year, he started focusing on the military academies but he stumbled upon the Merchant Marine Academy.
“They had a college fair at Lake Forest Academy,” he explained to the newspaper, “and a gentleman was standing at a booth and his son had recently graduated. He told me that I could go to over 30 countries by the time I graduated and receive an active-duty commission.
“That right there sold me on it, because not only was there the adventure but also the military structure and also the opportunity and privilege to serve before and after graduation.”
Part of the educational requirements at the Merchant Marine Academy is spending a year at sea. During his time on the water, Berto sailed in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman as a Military Sealift Command Deck Cadet on the USNS Sacagawea. He also sailed throughout the Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Middle East on a tanker, a Maersk Line car carrier, and two container ships.
Berto calls his upcoming assignment “kind of a unique thing – it’s a maritime graduate program in the Coast Guard’s prevention sector, which involves casualty response, special inspection and waterway management.”
His time as the regimental commander was a “welcome challenge to develop as a leader,” he said.
“It was very exciting at first to hear the news. Then you kind of come face to face with the responsibility and the personal accountability you have. Immediately, all eyes are on the regimental commander, so every day, you have to be so much more aware of how people are perceiving all of your actions.”