Time Since 8 July 2010: Years Days Hours Mins Secs
Click here to see more about these counters
top banner


168 Days: Last Ride

By Ken Snyder

It was bound to happen. I was hoping it would last a bit longer, but the time to retire from the ANG finally arrived.

In mid-2017 the word was passed to me that I would most likely not be a part of the 190th after 2018. In the ANG, once you accumulate enough time to retire (20 years) the service can tell you to hit the bricks -- it's called "non-retention." I was the senior traditional Guardsman in my shop, a position that for the last 15 years (that I've been in the shop) was allowed to be promoted to Master Sergeant and then given a year to either find a Master Sergeant position in the unit or retire -- but not me. It doesn't take a lot of research to determine that my Technical Sergeant promotion delay (I was a Staff Sergeant from 2005 to 2015) was attributed to my attitude (during a portion of that time) to the indifference I saw to my discrimination case. I wasn't able to compartmentalize the struggle I was experiencing in my civilian life and hide it when I put on my uniform. When it finally came to a head and we had a real discussion about it, I was told it was "discussed" at "higher levels" -- but not with the one person that would have benefited to know that discussions were taking place, ME. Once more the ripple effects of my USERRA case reached far past BPU and DOL.KAF gear

With the impending end of my military career I decided to take one more deployment. I had my new career, and my civilian employer's support was unbelieveable, so I wanted to close out my "crawling over airplanes" life with a trip to the latest location they were sending ANG members: Kandahar, Afghanistan. Compared to my other deployments, this one was going to be on a far different level: as an aircraft mechanic this was the only deployment that I was issued a weapon, and had to carry it everywhere -- the recreation hall, the laundry, the base exchange, the dining facility, and most importantly, to the work area. We had to run for bunkers when the Taliban decided to try to shoot antiquated rockets at the base, which we were restriced to for the entire time we were there -- no trips to historic sites, no off-base recreation, virtually no interaction with the local population.

final launch

The people I worked with were the consummate professionals. Our shop was rather small, but we were able to keep the aircraft we had in our unit at a high state of readiness. On deployments "specialists" (like the avionics shop I was a part of) launch aircraft for their missions, a job I always enjoyed. We were also responsible for repairing any last-minute problems the flight crews might discover in the pre-flight activities. It kept us as close to the missions as we could be without actually flying on the aircraft. I was at Kandahar in July and August; my time there was cut short due to Chelsea falling at home and breaking her leg. Instead of flying home with my unit's aircraft I had the opportunity to take my last flight with a New Hampshire Air National Guard crew that was going home. They found out about this being my last deployment/last flights and asked me to fly as a member of the cockpit crew from Scotland to New Hampshire, something I had never done before. Seeing everything I had worked on for the last 16 years in action was very rewarding. Once in New Hampshire I flew on a civilian flight from Boston to Chicago, and another from Chicago to Kansas City.

Back at home, and back at the unit, I filed the paperwork to process my retirement. I insisted that I wanted nothing but to check out of the unit when my time was over, no fake speeches about how I'd be missed, no lies about how they hated to see me go. They treated me like a pariah when I lost my job, but expected me to continue as if nothing had happened. I took on every task and deployment they asked me to, including three deployments after my wife was permanently disabled. In the end, none of that mattered. I didn't wait to see my name on a non-retention list; I felt that if I wasn't wanted, I wasn't going to stay any longer than I needed to. Even on my last day my wish to just leave and be gone was too much to ask, they just had to make it something in the shop -- why, I'll never know. I never felt like a part of the shop clique, I didn't live in Topeka or even close to it, and I didn't fit in with all their likes and dislikes. Another member of the shop lost their job (not sure why) and they found a way to get him a temporary position -- something never offered to me.KS At MCRD

One perk of my new civilian employment was the ability to take an actual vacation. So in late-April we took a trip to California, back to MCRD San Diego -- the first place I put on a military uniform, where I earned the title of Marine. I decided that this was where it started, and this is where it will end, on my terms. My official first day of military retirement was 1 May 2019, but because I'm not 60 yet I have a year or so before all my benefits will kick in. I miss "crawling over airplanes" but it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Looking back, I'm not sure I should have invested as much time in the 190th as I did. But at this point my time has already came and went, and even if they wouldn't stand up for me I'll continue my efforts to support service members with better USERRA enforcement. Things are in process, and hopefully soon we'll see changes taking place.

Next: Politics
To return to the index page, click here.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.