A soldier’s view

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2007

Editors note: Periodically the Clarion will print biographies and notes from soldiers stationed in northern Kuwait with the 3rd Battalion, Alaska Army National Guard. Staff Sgt. Mac Metcalfe, public affairs non-commissioned officer with the battalion, conducts the interviews.


Ryan Gillis

Home town: Kenai



Two rather random events have shaped my life up to this point. The first was a high school friend coming up to me saying, “If I join the National Guard, will you join too?”

We had talked about it once before, so thinking he wouldn’t do it, I said I would join. He went down to the recruiter and now here I am on the Kuwait-Iraq border.

The second event happened after I joined the National Guard in 2004. When I was 15 years old, my family moved to Pennsylvania. It was there I met Brigit. We dated for two years before my family moved again, this time to Michigan. It was there where I joined the National Guard. I hadn’t seen or heard from Brigit for a number of years when one day she called me. We talked for several hours, and she suggested I think about moving back to Pennsylvania. With not much loyalty to Michigan, I moved back and eight months later we got married.

By this time, my parents had moved to Kenai, so that’s where we went on our honeymoon. We decided to make Kenai our home and I got a job at Home Depot.

Brigit is a band and choir teacher at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School. She likes teaching and loves Alaska, but with me gone it is really hard on her.

When I first heard about the deployment, we were told we would be going Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Soon after, we heard the mission to Djibouti was canceled and we were bound for Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It wasn’t until February 2006 we knew we would be going to Kuwait and even that wasn’t for sure. It was like 10 percent chance that we weren’t going, so I was holding on to that hope because we had our hearts set on starting a family.

Deployment has been hard on my wife, and she cried a lot. She misses her family. She is strong and will get through it. I bought a cell phone and talk to her almost every day. We e-mail each other on a daily basis.

I don’t necessarily want to be here but I think we need to be here. We don’t talk much about politics in our squad. I think mostly we are doing what we have to do until we can move on.

I am assigned to C Company, 3rd Battalion 297th Infantry, Alaska National Guard as an automated systems specialist in supply. My squad leader, Sgt. Ian Mullett, is a great leader. We have a lot of good guys and I think we are one of the best squads.

Our two missions in Kuwait are quick reaction force and area reaction force.

For QRF, we respond to incidents within the camp and a short distance beyond the wire. ARF is similar but not as intense.

Kuwait is not as hard as I expected it to be.

A lot of people expected to be in Iraq and they’re disappointed. But it isn’t something we can control.

Personally, I don’t care. I am here doing what I got to do, and then I will just move on with my life. I don’t want to be here but someone has to be and I am just one of those people. I would much rather be home with my wife and starting a family.

I just want to thank all the residents of Kenai who send their support for the military and send us care packages. We are very grateful to you!

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