Ronald Reagan was in the middle of his first term as President of the United States, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games to win the World Series and the TV show “M*A*S*H” went off the air after 11 successful years.
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The year was 1983. Gary Daniel Birtwell, a 1982 Ponderosa High School graduate, joined the U.S. Navy to become a fireman apprentice. In March, Chief Warrant Officer Gary Daniel Birtwell retired from the military branch after 30 years.
After going through boot camp and engine man training in Great Lakes, Ill., Birtwell reported to his first duty station, Diego Garcia, as a power plant operator and repair technician.
In 1984, Birtwell transferred to the U.S.S. Pigeon for his first sea duty tour. In 1986, he reported to Naval Special Warfare Group One as a vehicle and small boat repair technician. While there, he accepted assignment to Seal Team Six as a high-speed small boat coxswain, completing three months of extensive physical, weapon and combat training.
In 1988, he reported to Naval Amphibious School in Coronado as a diesel and outboard engine overhaul instructor, certifying as a Master Training Specialist. In 1991, he reported to Seal Team Five as First Lieutenant Department Head/Logistics Officer for South Korean training exercises, qualifying as a U.S. Navy parachutist in 1993. While attached to Seal Team Five, he was selected for advancement to Chief Engineman.
In 1995 he reported to the U.S.S. Cowpens as the Auxiliaries Leading Chief Petty Officer and qualified as Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and Engineering Officer of the Watch — Gas Turbine.
In 1998, he attended Diesel Engine Inspector Training and certified with honors. After certification, he was assigned as Lead Diesel Inspector for Naval Special Boat Squadron One in Coronado, inspecting all Special Warfare Combat Craft and four Coastal Patrol Craft. While stationed at Comspecboatron One, Chief Warrant Officer Four Birtwell was selected for and accepted a commission as Chief Warrant Officer Two on Oct. 1, 2000.
After Birtwell’s commissioning, he competed officer training and reported to U.S.S. Zephyr as Engineering Officer. While assigned on the ship, he qualified as Officer of the Deck — Underway — Engineering Officer of the Watch, Combat Information Watch Officer. In addition, he was selected as the Junior Ship Handler of the Year in 2003, and awarded the Comnavsurfor Junior Officer Leadership Award in 2002 and 2003.
In 2004, he reported to the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk as Auxiliary Material Officer, forward deployed in Yokosuka Japan, where he qualified as Engineering Officer of the Watch — Steam. In 2006, he reported to the U.S.S. Comstock as Main Propulsion Assistant, where he qualified Engineering Officer of the Watch — Diesel — and Surface Warfare Officer.
In July 2008, Birtwell reported to Comcmron Two as the N-43 Maintenance Officer, where he managed all maintenance for eight ships in Ingleside, Texas, plus six forward deployed ships in Japan and Bahrain, and was a key player in the command relocation from Texas to California.
Birtwell’s final duty station was Special Boat Team Twelve, where he completed assignments as a deployed Maintenance Support Team Officer, Combatant Craft Division Officer and Command Maintenance Officer.
Birtwell’s U.S. Navy awards consists of the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (six awards); Navy Achievement Medal (five awards); Meritorious Unit Citation (two awards); National Defense Medal (two awards), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Medal (two awards); Korea Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Service Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Expert Rifleman and Pistol Medals, Surface Warfare Officer, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, Navy Parachutist and various other personal, unit and campaign awards.
Birtwell resides in San Diego with his wife, Socorro. They have two adult children, Miranda and Gary Jr. June Birtwell, mother of Gary Sr., resides in Shingle Springs.
The older Birtwell now works as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense.