Imagine two words that change your entire life. Imagine these two words representing courage, fear, honor and uncertainty. Imagine that when encountering these two words, you enter a new state of being and you don’t know if you’ll walk away dead or alive. Which two words could mean so much?
GCC student Ryan Wells, 20, is a civil engineering major who has been enlisted in the Marines Corps since Oct. 11, 2001 exactly one month after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
“I enlisted because when I was in high school my senior year, a lot of people were talking about if the draft came up, they would run away to Canada and burn the draft card,” said Wells. “In the generation before me, people fought and died for the rights we have today and if they were willing to do it for our country, and we don’t, something is wrong with that picture.”
Wells goes into active duty on June 1.
He enlisted in his senior year of high school and began boot camp in San Diego the summer after graduation from John Burroughs High School in Burbank, class of 2002. “I saw the base for three months, one of which was in Camp Pendleton,” he said.
As a part of the 92-reserve program, Wells was able to continue on with his education after completing boot camp instead of moving straight into combat training, as long as he was able to prove he was a full-time student; the 92-reserve program allows for this to be done. “I went to GCC for my first semester and was three weeks late,” said Wells. “I had to catch up three weeks worth of school but I caught up and it wasn’t too bad.”
He spent a full academic year (2002-03) at GCC until in the summer of 2003 when he reported to Twentynine Palms for training as a field operator.
“I was learning my job,” said Wells. “I’m a communication specialist in charge of making sure that information can be transferred between units and different people.” He returned to GCC last fall to continue his general education courses.
Currently, he is a cadet in the GCC police department. “I volunteered to work my first day of work on Christmas Eve,” he said. “I like it a lot. I’ve learned a lot; I’ve picked up on different skills from the other officers and how to deal with people and just how general policing works.”
This week he took his written examination for the Los Angeles Police Department Academy. He’s hoping to transfer to Cal State Northridge in the spring of 2005.
Following his activation date of June 1, Wells is set for deployment on July 22. This summer, he is set for Camp Pendleton for one month. “I’m going to the school of infantry,” he said.
What are the chances that he’ll be deployed into Iraq after completing infantry school? “At the moment, pretty good,” he said.
Wells admits he is not particularly eager to join forces in Iraq.
“Truthfully, no, I have better things to do here, but if I have to go, I’ll go,” he said. “I’ll follow through on my word. I signed the paper, I’ll do it.”
He doesn’t seem phased by the recent abuses on Iraqi prisoners by American troops. “It’s never right to do that to someone else, but it’s bound to happen. With the stuff that goes on out there you just need to minimalize it,” said Wells of prisioner absue in wartime.
He remains confused as to why American troops would act in such ways and violate military laws. “People take their frustrations out in different ways,” he said. “I wouldn’t know; I’m not there. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.”
Still, he has faith that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction exist and that our military efforts overseas have not been in vain. “I think they [weapons of mass destruction] are there and we’re just not finding them, and that’s part of the problem,” he said. “Americans want to see quick results. They don’t want to sit there and wait.”
However, he does not dismiss possibilities of ulterior motives behind the administration’s quest in Iraq. “No country goes to war without some kind of economic gain,” he said. “I think it’s two-fold.”
Despite his anxiety about the possibilities of giving up his life in Iraq, Wells certainly does not regret his military choices. He has been able to gather a lot of direction and focus from his work in the military. “It did a lot of good things for me,” he said. “It made me a lot more relaxed and a lot more positive.”
One of the things he is most certain about is his thoughts on others joining the military without understanding first what it entails. “I know work in the military is different for everyone and is not for everyone,” he said.
“Don’t do it just for what you think you can get out of everything. It’s an experience everyone takes differently. People just need to realize what they’re getting into.”
Despite these cautions, he maintains his certainty on his decision to join.
“I would never take it back. It’s been a great experience.”