Navy Vet Sees World, Returns Home to Study at Gustavus

Chris Marlatt's U.S. Navy journey spanned a dozen years, four continents, and prepared him for success in the classroom and in life.
Posted on November 11th, 2021 by

Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, Chris Marlatt had no idea that one day he’d live with his wife and newborn daughter in the south of Spain, just a hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean.

Today, Marlatt is a 32-year old first-year student studying computer science at Gustavus Adolphus College. But for the last dozen years, he served across the globe as a corpsman (medical specialist) in the United States Navy.

“After graduating high school [Mankato East] in 2008, I wasn’t sure what to do,” Marlatt recalled. “So I followed my older step brother to the Navy.”

Marlatt (kneeling, left) leads a combat care review with USMC troops at Camp Lejeune.

After basic training and “A School” (Accession Training) at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, Marlatt went to Okinawa, Japan, where he was assigned to work as a corpsman with the United States Marines Third Medical Battalion. Living in the barracks at Camp Hansen, he met and worked with sailors and Marines from around the world.

“It was a blast,” Marlatt said. “I learned so much about people that I’d never realized before. I remember talking to my mom about diversity and how the military was about everyone, regardless of background, working together toward a common goal.”

After two years in Okinawa, Marlatt headed back to the states, where he worked as a general duty medic at Naval Hospital Bremerton on Washington’s Puget Sound. “I was basically a surgery tech for internal medicine and endoscopy. It was a real eye-opener at first, but I ended up really enjoying it,” said Marlatt, who was promoted to E-4 (Petty Officer Third Class) during his time in the Pacific Northwest.

He lived off-base for the first time, sharing an apartment with a fellow sailor in Silverdale. Working in a hospital setting was a change of pace from the constant training with the Marines. “I wore scrubs to work every day instead of fatigues. It was almost like a ‘normal’ job,” Marlatt recalled.

In 2014, it was time for a cross-country jump to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina—and a return to the Marines. Assigned to serve as a corpsman for combat Marines, Marlatt underwent “lots of in-depth pre-deployment training.” He got married in 2015 to Katelyn, a former high school classmate from Mankato. The two lived together in North Carolina for two years, during which Marlatt deployed to the Mediterranean on the USS Kearsarge with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“I was in the Navy for almost eight years before I saw my first ship,” Marlatt joked.

Marlatt (left) on the deck of the USS Kearsarge during his deployment to the Mediterranean.

Then Marlatt’s duty assignment changed again. Chris and Katelyn moved to Rota, Spain, and he returned to working in a hospital setting. The couple settled into a house overlooking the Atlantic. They welcomed their daughter, Emily, in 2017. Marlatt worked as a radiation health technician at the base hospital. He played on a rugby team with fellow service members. When time allowed, the young family traveled—the Canary Islands, Scotland’s Loch Ness, the Rock of Gibraltar. Life was good.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Marlatt helped with case tracking for the base, using a software program to manage care, isolation, and quarantine protocols. The new assignment made him realize that his longtime hobby of computers and video games might someday be a career. The intersection of healthcare and technology was intriguing.

“I would’ve stayed in forever,” Marlatt said. “I loved the work, the people, and the opportunity to see the world with my family.”

But the Navy had other plans. With the upcoming drawdown in the Middle East, the U.S. military decided to downsize the active-duty numbers of several ratings, including corpsmen. After 12 years of active-duty service, Marlatt was honorably discharged in 2021.

The young family returned to Kasota, Minnesota, to be close to Chris and Katelyn’s relatives. Marlatt enrolled at Gustavus this fall, transferred in some credits from his time in the service, and chose to major in computer science.

Marlatt plays rugby during his time in Rota, Spain.

“I’ve always been interested in computers, which was sparked by a love of video games,” said Marlatt, who considered going to school for video game design before choosing the liberal arts at Gustavus. “The desire to study computer science was really solidified in Rota during the pandemic.”

“I’m thinking of the future,” he added. “Information technology. Cybersecurity. I hope to work for the government or as a federal contractor and get to 20 years of service.”

And the switch from the U.S. Navy to studying at Gustavus? “I absolutely love it. I always enjoyed the smaller duty stations, places where you could get to know people and learn their stories,” Marlatt said. “I feel like I’m already building a network here.”

For the 32-year old first-year student who has served his country and traveled the world, returning to southern Minnesota and enrolling at Gustavus is providing the opportunity to put down roots.

“After spending so much time traveling, we’re looking for ‘home,’” Marlatt said.

And with confidence and leadership skills borne of service, he’s finding it right here at Gustavus.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. Lavonne says:

    Wow, congratulations and thanks for your many years of service!

  2. Lori says:

    Thank you for your service!

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