We at Keys Weekly want to honor the men and women serving in our local military installations. With help and advice from our community members in the armed forces, we’re proud to present our Military Spotlight.
U.S. COAST GUARD
Boatswain’s Mate 3rd class
Branch of Service and Unit
U.S. Coast Guard – Station Islamorada
Yorba Linda, California
Why did you join the military? I joined the Coast Guard to follow in my parents’ footsteps and serve my country. Both of my parents, BM1 Todd Venero and BM1 Jennifer Bittman, achieved the rank of Boatswain’s Mate First Class during their time in the Coast Guard. They first met more than 25 years ago at the same unit to which I am currently stationed (Coast Guard Station Islamorada).
It all started with my mom’s first day on board. My dad, as the Operations Petty Officer, had a suspicion that my mom was Coast Guard Investigative Services (CGIS). So, essentially, my parents’ relationship and the beginning of my story began because my dad thought my mom was a “spy.” I have admired them greatly for as long as I can remember and wanted nothing more than to be like them.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Do you plan to remain on active duty? As of now, my love for this branch of service, as well as my Boatswain’s Mate specialty, grows exponentially day by day. I currently have no plans to separate at the end of my first enlistment.
How many years have you been in the military?
2 ½ years
What is your job? My position at Station Islamorada is within the Deck Department and my primary duties are to serve as a Boat Crew member, Boarding Team Member and eventually as an advanced Pursuit Coxswain.
Had you ever been to the Florida Keys before your current assignment?
Only once while on a vacation with my parents, long before the Coast Guard was even something I knew existed.
Did you choose Islamorada or were you just assigned here? I grew up hearing all the amazing stories from my parents about this station in particular. Of their 20-plus years of Coast Guard service, this was BY FAR the highlight for both of them. At the conclusion of Boatswain’s Mate “A” School, I placed well enough to get my number-one pick and Station Islamorada had an opening.
What were your first thoughts when hearing you were coming to the Keys?
My first thoughts were, “I can’t wait to tell my old man.” The toughest, most stoic man I know was brought to tears when he learned his “sonny boy” was going to be running the mangrove cuts in the dark of night to save those periled by the sea, just as he did almost 30 years ago. My mother, on the other hand, could not stop swearing for some reason. I guess that’s just how she showed her excitement.
I enjoy fishing, working out when possible, working on my boat or motorcycles, as well as studying for my next qualification (that’s not so much as a hobby, but an obligation).
What do you do in your free time?
I go fishing with my buddies or usually hang out at one of our houses if we are not on the boat. The older guys and some of my supervisors whom I have grown very close to teach me the ropes on anything from what temperature to smoke a piccata steak to what size braided line to spool on my fishing rods.
What do you like most about the Keys? The unique beauty of the crystal clear water, all the different shades of blue and green, the hospitality of all the local people, all the unbelievable fishing locations within 3 miles of shore, 10-foot wide mangrove cuts filled with life. I don’t have the time to put into words everything I admire about this almost other-worldly place.
What do you like most about your assignment? An operational tempo that is second to none, we are always vigilant, never out of practice, always experts.
What would you change about living here in Islamorada if you had the power to do so? I would make it less of a tourist attraction. From all the stories I have heard growing up to now, the Keys have definitely changed. Not for good or bad, just more of a carbon footprint, more people, more commercial fishing, more everything.
Any advice to give other military seeking assignment here?
You are coming to the crowned jewel of the Coast Guard. Be ready to put in the work, because you will be tested daily.
What do you like most about living here? The island time, everything moves slower, but faster at the same time. It’s an unexplainable phenomenon that not many have had the blessing to experience. I have been here for a year; it has felt like two months, but also a lifetime.