October 03, 2012
On Friday morning Army Command Sergeant Major Bryan Merkel started his day dressed active duty.
While his attire remained the same his mission differed significantly from the past year.
CSM Bryan was one of about 100 guardsmen from the 125th Infantry Battalion from Michigan that returned Sept. 28 from a year long stint in Afghanistan. Although the Michigan Army National Guard battalion is based in Flint, the soldiers are from throughout the state and flew into Capital Region International Airport.
Bryan greeted his daughter Baylee, 14, during her lunch hour at Goodrich High School. Following the reunion Bryan and his wife Tammy along with Baylee went to Reid Elementary School to surprise Marcella, 6, during her lunch hours.
For Bryan this was the end of his third deployment from January 2012, to the Middle East. His first stint was was from 2003 to 2005 in Bagdad and a second deployment from May 2009 to May 2011 in Iraq.
Bryan just returned his current deployment where he was been stationed since January in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
Bryan said they had been in Afghanistan for about a year working on security force assistance, working with Afghanistan National Police and the Afghanistan Boarder police.
"We've starting a transition to an advisor role by building up the Afghanistan police and army. For us our main mission to advise the Afghanistan police most of the provide security. During the time we were in Afghanistan there seems to have been some big improvements, however I really have nothing to compare it to since it's my first time in country," he said.
A Spring Valley, Minn. native, Bryan joined the Army Reserves while attending high school. He served in the reserves for about 11 years before switching to active duty ten years ago.
"To me the big enjoyment of serving are the soldiers I work with," he said. "I'm proud of them, during everyone of my deployments they continue to impress me—the men and women who without the sacrifice this country would not be were it is today. That's brings me back to each deployment, I'm proud to put that uniform on and stand with the soldiers, from the leaders to the privates. The teamwork and dedication everyday whether it's 125 degrees, snowing or rain—regardless of the mission they get the job done."
"Honestly it never gets any easier after three deployments," added Bryan.
"I miss family, the kids, they growing so fast during the time I'm gone," he said. "I miss out on the day-to-day activities, the homecoming dances and holidays. "I miss the ups and downs of family life—I think about it all the time, it's always on my mind."
No big plans, catch up on the ta does, it's always there.