Each day when Operations Chief Wichai Bonton wakes up, he is glad to be where he is – on the sea. “I love it – to live where I work. I can have an extra hour to get ready, and I don’t have to worry about traffic.” Living where he works doesn’t mean never getting a break though, “I separate myself from duty very well. Once I finish working, I find a nice spot on the ship that I like and relax. I have a nice ocean view. You can’t beat that,” he explains.
Bonton joined Military Sealift Command in February 2015, but he knew about MSC well before that time while serving in the Navy. For a total of 13 years, Bonton served his country in the Navy. From 2004-2006 he served as Military Detachment on the US Navy Ship Tippecanoe. Here Bonton was the Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class onboard Tippecanoe, an MSC ship; coordinating and managing logistics between the two entities. He eventually separated and went on to do other things, but still remembered his time aboard the Tippecanoe.
Bonton’s family was growing and as it did, prompted him to make a career change. He wanted to support his three children and wife well. “I joined [MSC] because my family grew, and I needed secure security and benefits for them,” he stated.
MSC met Bonton’s need for both security and benefits. Another consideration he had was, “I wanted to be a federal employee…Being a federal employee means I will have financial security and can provide a better future and housing for my family. [Also,] I have experience in the Navy, so I can use that to benefit myself. MSC will promote you on your performance too.”
To date, Bonton has sailed two tours with MSC—one as a Supply Utilityman. By the second tour, he had advanced to Operations Chief—a position he enjoys. Tours take Bonton all over the world and far away from the family he loves and supports. “Having an understanding family makes everything easier,” he said. He misses them, but he finds the time away can still be quality time. “Communication is a must. As long as I have communication, everything will be smooth. Thanks to the internet, I can balance my home life pretty well. I am able to monitor my kids’ grades and homework anytime I want.”
While Bonton is aboard and away from his true family, he is surrounded by another. “We live together and help each other, just like family. We have good times and bad times together. I feel like I’m at home, the first day I’m onboard.” The similarities between these families are apparent.
Sailing with “family” was a pleasant surprise for Bonton. The Chains of Command on the USNS William McLean and the USNS Medgar Evers each left an impression. He explained the thing that surprised him the most about MSC was, “The Chain of Command. I have a good helpful, resourceful, and understanding boss that makes my transition and experience a lot smoother. My Chain of Command makes me feel like I’m welcome and am part of the family.”
Serving for his family back home, the security he finds in his position, and finding a supportive “family” aboard has made Bonton want to sail with MSC for years to come until retirement.