By Army Sgt. Jason Dangel
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 12, 2008 - Growing up in Lansing, Mich., Army Pvt. Ryan Bruin didn't have many opportunities to make a life for himself. He joined the Army purely for the steady pay. "I didn't graduate from high school and left home at a really young age," explained the Apache attack helicopter maintainer who's serving in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade. "There was really no opportunity for me in Michigan, and when I didn't graduate with my class, I had nothing. I didn't know what I was going to do.
Bruin said he and his brother had talked about joining the Army, not because it was really what they wanted to do, but because there was a steady paycheck involved. "My brother was who actually talked about it first," he said, "and ironically, I was the first one to join."
The news of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan didn't faze Bruin as he arrived at his first duty station at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this year, just in time for the brigade's pre-deployment preparations.
"Essentially, I didn't think much about the war," Bruin said. "The benefits definitely outweigh the risk. I am learning a lifelong trade, and I can also get a college education for free."
Bruin is the youngest soldier in his battalion, and he's taking the opportunity to learn from his superiors.
"I have good people backing me and teaching me," he said. "My squad leader knows his job from the inside out, and I am really learning a lot."
The young soldier's leaders say Bruin made the right choice to join the Army.
"From what I understand, he didn't have much back home, and he made the right choice to join the Army," said Cpl. Jared Akers, Bruin's squad leader and first-line supervisor from Pulaski, Va. "To me, joining the service isn't an obligation, it's a choice. Some people step up, and others don't. At 18 years old, Bruin stepped up, and he's doing a fine job."
Akers has high expectations for Bruin.
"I expect him to do great things while we're out here," he said. "He has a lot to learn, but I expect him to replace me someday as the squad leader, and we're working to get him there."
Bruin said he is unsure what the future holds and is living life one day at a time, making the most of his first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I mean, I'm not sure if I want to do this forever, but right now this is what I do, and I'm trying to make the best of it," Bruin said. "All I can say is this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm having fun doing it."
(Army Sgt. Jason Dangel serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade.)