I’ll be honest when people ask me what my favorite part of my project was I don’t hesitate to answer, “The interviews!” Something about calling up the potential interviewee and sitting down with them to learn their story gets me excited. Each individual’s story teaches me something new every time. In my opinion, it’s the best way to learn and connect with our military.
Sergeant Ryan A. Landis
United States Marine Corps
Eight years into service and one tour to Afghanistan, Sgt. Ryan Landis has had an amazing career so far. His story hits very excellent points and makes many true statements.
Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps?
My family is a huge military family. Pretty much every male in the family has been in the military since as far back as I’ve been able to find out, but they all served in the army. I wanted to do something different. Growing up in an army town, I figured that was the easiest route to go. I wanted to try something else. The only recruitment office I ever walked into was the Marine Corps office. I sat right down in front of the first recruiter I saw, looked at him and said, “I’m here to join. What do I need to sign?” He was kind of freaked out a little bit.
Where have you been stationed?
Recruit Training – San Diego, California
Combat Training – Camp Pendleton, California
Yuma, Arizona – Marine Air Control Squadron 1 Reinforced
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina – Second Assault Amphibian Battalion
Secondary MOS – Westminster, Colorado
What will be your next station after here?
Honestly, I would love to go back to Arizona. I would like to be back with the original unit that I was with there or one of the other commands.
How do you feel while you are in the military? (Successful, lonely, etc…)
Definitely a lot more successful. I graduated high school in 07’, I didn’t join until 08’. I wasn’t going to college, I was working dead-end jobs. I felt like I was going nowhere. So I knew I needed to make a change and I knew I needed to make it quick. One day when I got off work, I walked into the recruiter’s office and I just knew if I wouldn’t have done it then I probably wouldn’t have ever done it. I’m a lot happier with myself than that year between graduating high school and joining the Marines.
What has it been like while you’ve been serving? (Rough, thrilling, etc…)
It’s definitely been pretty rough. Being in the Marine Corps is a lot harder than what some think. It’s a lot more challenging to stay in the Marine Corps just as it is getting into it. There’s so many different things we have to go through every year to requalify, testing and everything like that just to stay in and get promoted, extra courses we have to attend for every time that we get promoted. So it’s definitely been a challenge these last 8 years. I definitely have to say it’s been fun and pretty exhilarating. All the different things I’ve been able to do and all the different places I’ve been able to go. For example, I went on a 3-week vacation to Germany and France and I got paid while I was doing it. I also went to Alaska for a month for a training exercise. Out of the entire month I’d say that the only time it felt like real work was maybe a week out of that whole month. There are some downs, bad times, but just one good day outshines all those bad days. You remember all the good times more than you do the bad.
What was training like for you?
Boot camp was hands down one of the most miserable times in my life. I walked into my recruiter’s office March 22nd, 2008 and I was sent off to boot camp on “April Fool’s Day” of 2008. I had no time to physically or mentally prepare for recruit training. I just said, “Put me in the Corps. Get me out of here as soon as possible.” I didn’t think about the consequences that would come from going to boot camp and not being ready. It was hell, I’m not going to sugar-coat it. It was hard but I made some really good friends while I was there. Through them motivating and keeping you up, and vice versa, you just start to forget about the bad times and look forward to the good times, that’s all you can think about. Even now you start to forget boot camp except for the good times and the times you had fun.
You enlisted, what was your experience like with that process?
It was very easy for me. As I said, I just walked into the office. I brought in all the paperwork I would need to be able to join, set it right on the recruiter’s desk and said, “I’m here to sign up.” The next day I went and took my ASVAB, did the physical, got qualified, swore in that afternoon, and then a week later I went to boot camp. So it was extremely easy.
What is your job in the Marines?
Besides recruiting, my job in the Marine Corps is a Generator Mechanic.
Do you feel like you’ve built good friendships while serving?
Oh heck yes! I have friends from boot camp and MOS that I still call on the regular. I’ve got friends all over the world that I still keep in touch with. Every time we pick up the phone and start talking it’s just like we saw each other yesterday. There’s no break in the communication line, we still know everything about each other, it’s like we’re still living in the same state.
What does your family think of you being in the military?
I remember the day when I told my mom. I was leaving work and I called my mom and told her I wasn’t going to be home right away, she asks why and I tell her I’m going down to talk to the Marine recruiter. I remember her exact words, “No, you’re not, come home. You don’t need to join the military.” I told her this is what I want to do so I’m going to go talk to him and hear him out. I came home later that night and my mom asked, “Well, what happened?” I answered, “He’s picking me up in the morning and I’m going to go take the ASVAB and join.” She was really angry. But I’ll never forget the next night when I came home and she was sitting there on the couch with my dad watching TV. She asked me if I joined, when I told her, “Yes”, she got up from the couch and wrapped me up in this huge hug and told me how proud of me she was. It was a complete 360 from the day before. My mom owns lots of t-shirts that say “My son is a Marine”. She still calls me all the time or she’ll send me random text messages telling me how proud of me she is. I find it annoying, but I know it makes her happy that I did something with my life instead of staying back home with a dead-end job. They’re definitely proud.
Were there any moments you’ve been afraid?
Probably the only time I’ve ever been actually scared of anything that I’ve done was one time when I was in Afghanistan. It was about 4 AM on New Year’s Day and I was out walking checking the lines on the generators. Making sure they were operating properly. One of them was just going crazy. The engine was dropping off RPM’s and kicking them up repeatedly. It sounded like it was going to blow up. I had no idea what was going on and I was trying to shut it down to swap it over to another generator. Attached to the generator are these 100 amp cables that are probably about 3 ½ – 4 inches thick, the whole thing is about 30 feet long. While I was swapping it over, it kicks the RPM’s up way over than what is safe for the engine and the entire cable explodes. Sparks shot up in the air at least 30 – 40 feet. It was loud and it was bright. I was standing right next to it. I wasn’t hurt or anything but it scared me because it just happened in an instant. After I could see and hear again, I got the generators swapped back over again.
Did you serve in a war?
I went to Afghanistan only once so far. I would love to go more. I was out there September 2010 until March of 2011. Pretty much all I did was my job, working on generators. I did a couple flights to other bases to work on their power setups and get their bases up and running as well.
Do you feel like your career in the military is a successful and fulfilling one?
Yeah, I definitely feel that way. I take a look back at the places I’ve been, friends I’ve made, and the things that I’ve done and feel successful.
Any stories you’d like to share?
One of the funniest things that I can think of was in June or July of 2011. I went on the joint training exercise with the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force on Kodiak Island, Alaska. We were there for a few weeks. After we got everything initially set up, I laid out the power grid, and got all the generators in place. A few days later there was an Air Force Public Relations person going around doing interviews. She wanted to speak to the Utilities Chief about the power setup and learn more about how it was all done. I gladly walked outside to talk to her about it and she was asking me these questions, “How do the generators work?”, “What are they powering?”, and “What’s the operation you are doing it for?” I was feeling extremely sarcastic that day and I told this lady, “What happens is the generators emit the electrical field around them to power the objects that need power. It emits the electricity as far as it needs to go to power the equipment. It then signals all the way out into space for it to come back down so it can produce a mapping image in our area of the operation we are working in.” She asked me as a generator mechanic how I knew how the radar systems worked like that. I told her, “I’ve been in this unit for a few years and this is the main thing I do, power their equipment. I’ve learned that this is how the equipment operates.” She decided to take my word for gold and never went to talk to the Marines that work on the radar systems. She published a two-page article based on what I told her.
What do you see yourself doing after the military?
I’ve pretty much had my plans set out to work towards being a gunsmith. I’m a hobby gunsmith currently. I do a lot of my own custom work and build my own firearms. I find a lot of enjoyment out of it.
The final two questions below gives the interviewee the opportunity to share their voice in the issue “Connecting & Protecting” is addressing.
Do you feel like there is a disconnection between the military and the general public?
Wholeheartedly, yes I do! The reason I feel like there’s a disconnection is a lot of people believe everything that they see on TV, hear from their parents, or hear on the radio, they take it for gold. They idolize their TV shows, bands, music artists, etc… They feel anything portrayed in the media is 100% truth. People tend to look at the military and think everything it’s still like it was back in the day (i.e.: WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, etc…). They don’t understand the new tactics, strategies, equipment, and technology that goes into play with the military now. The general public feels that the military is either; 1) the most dangerous thing they could do with their life or 2) the worst decision that they can make for themselves. Some feel a lot more comfortable with graduating high school and going to college. They feel that’s better than getting a similar job field in the military, getting their education covered, taking care of themselves and their family, and getting set up for their future. People feel if they get the similar job in the military, they will be put on the front lines. It’s these types of misconceptions portrayed by the media that create the irrationalized fear in the minds of young individuals and even the older who chose not to serve. I don’t want to say that the military has a bad rap, I just think that people don’t understand what this nation was founded on. Its ideals and its beliefs. People feel that the military should take care of them when they should be the ones trying to take care of themselves.
Do you have any ideas on how this issue could be resolved?
I encourage everyone to do their own research as opposed to just being told what’s out there. Instead of believing everything you hear on TV, pick up a book instead. Don’t use Google or anything like that. Talk to your history teachers, veterans, active duty, reservists, etc… Ask them about the real experiences they had in the military. Take the time to ask them why they chose to do what they did. Don’t write something off because you think you’re too good for it. It’s not to benefit them. I didn’t join the military because they were going to pay for my college or because they were going to give me a cool job, I joined the Marine Corps specifically because I felt like it was my job as an American to protect and defend my country and my loved ones. Everything else is just an added benefit.