Ryan Price’s vacation is almost over. This weekend, he has to get back to work making the world a better place.
Price, 26, will be shipping off to the McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, KS, for his third tour of duty as a Civil Engineering Officer.
He spent each of his first two tours in Iraq. He was stationed in Northern Iraq from January to September of last year. He came home for two months before returning to Iraq, this time in the central part of the country, near Baghdad, from November through late June.
“I help take care of any infrastructure and tech analysis throughout the country,” said Price who graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken with two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s degree. “We work not just with coalition forces, but with Iraqi forces and the Department of State.”
Price has had to draw a weapon on more than one occasion, and he has experienced indirect fire, such as rockets, mortars, car bombs, suicide bombings and IEDs on a daily basis, but he has never engaged directly in combat.
Instead, his mission has been to help Iraq develop into a country that no longer needs support from outside its own borders. He said that between his two deployments, he has participated in over $50 million worth of construction projects focused on aiding the transition of control of the country into Iraqi hands.
“I’ve done everything from structural assessments to full construction of a facility, and I’ve worked with anywhere between four and 50 guys,” Price said. “ … Some projects run the length of the deployment, and some only take a day.”
Price is the project manager, meaning he oversees the completion of several projects at the same time. In his first deployment, he supervised 17 projects, and during his second, he oversaw 20, but what he truly oversaw was the progress of the Iraqi people.
At first, he said there was a lot they didn’t know, including how to handle clean and dirty water.
“They basically didn’t know how to maintain a base,” Price said. “They seem to be getting it now.”
He also commented on how grateful the Iraqis are to the coalition forces helping them develop their land, and how they show it with their willingness to learn.
He said parts of Iraq near Baghdad are more modern, with several small, family-run businesses, much like one would find in small town America. He also said his commanding officers have lofty expectations for the country’s future.
“Our generals will say in 10 years, they envision coming back here for a vacation,” Price said. “If it continues to go in the direction it is, I can see it becoming stable and safe enough that the generals could be right.”
Price doesn’t see himself vacationing in Iraq, though, no matter how stable or safe it becomes.
“It’s too hot for me,” he said.
Price prefers the type of vacation he’s experienced the past few weeks being home with his family in Galloway Township. The Absegami High School graduate has been staying with his parents, including his father, Rich Price, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
“Whatever he touches, he’s fought for it and it’s going to turn to gold,” Rich Price said. “He’ll be very successful.”
Rich Price once wrote an op-ed piece for a newspaper, describing his return home from Vietnam and discussing how soldiers returning from today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan should be treated better than he and his fellow soldiers were.
While today’s all volunteer army is treated better than the Vietnam vets were, it really doesn’t affect Ryan Price, who returns home with two or three friends at a time to his designated base in Kansas before he returns to Galloway Township.
There is no fanfare, good or bad.
“It’s weird when you come home, and everyone goes their own way,” Ryan Price said. “But it’s a small Air Force, and you know you’re probably going to see each other on the next mission.”
Price said he enjoys the ability to come together as a team, bringing your own individual talents to the mix.
“It’s nice to be able to meet up and accomplish your mission,” Price said. “Everyone’s bringing in diversity.”
He may return to Iraq, and he thinks that it’s very likely he’ll see Afghanistan before that conflict ends. Part of Price’s acceptance to and graduation from Stevens is that he must serve in the armed forces for four years.
Beyond that, he may stay in the military or he may return to civil engineering in the civilian sector full time. He had a full-time job as a civil engineer with Hatch, Mott and McDonald in Millburn, NJ, for six to eight months before entering the military.
One thing is for sure, though: Price is going to enjoy his remaining days on vacation.
“It’s good to be home and have a break,” the one time Eagle Scout said. “I get to enjoy the beach and barbecues. It’s the first time in three years I’ve been home during the summer.”