Enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1968, Rear Adm. Garry Bonelli graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training Class 51 in Coronado, Calif. Bonelli made two ground combat deployments in Vietnam as a Navy “Frogman” with Underwater Demolition Team 12.
In 1974, Bonelli became a member of the first reserve unit of Naval Special Warfare.
In 1976, while completing his Master of Science degree in Mass Communications, he received a direct commission in the Navy Reserve. Bonelli has served as the commanding officer of eight Navy reserve units.
Bonelli was mobilized in 1990 in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and served as the commanding officer of SEAL Team 5. He has the distinction of being the first and only reservist to ever command an active-duty SEAL Team.
In 2001, Bonelli was selected to serve as the deputy commander of Navy Reserve Readiness Command Southwest. In 2005, he completed a three-year collateral assignment as a member of the Secretary of the Navy’s National Navy Reserve Policy Board. Recalled to active duty in 2006, Bonelli served as the chief of staff for Naval Special Warfare Command. This echelon two headquarters command is responsible for seven major subordinate commands comprising a total force of 9,000 SEAL, Special Boat and mission specialists personnel. The command develops strategy, doctrine and tactics for Naval Special Warfare forces supporting fleet and joint special operations worldwide. Bonelli served as the Force Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command during 2008. He now serves on extended recall as the Deputy.
In his prior civilian profession, Bonelli was a staff director with the San Diego Association of Governments, a strategic research, planning and transportation agency working for the 18 cities and county government in the region. He helped manage a $14 billion public infrastructure program and developed public policy initiatives for locally elected officials on numerous issues encompassing population growth, transportation, governance, housing, environmental management, economic development, public safety, bi-national coordination and military-civilian community relationships.