Thunderbolt with two titles: Marine and Airman

First Lt. Ryan Allen, 56th Mission Support Group executive officer, poses with his Marine Corps dress blue uniform June 25, 2019, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Allen enlisted in the Marine Corps Aug. 30, 2000, before commissioning into the Air Force in 2016. (Air Force photograph by Airman Brooke Moeder)

No matter what branch of the military an individual serves in, whether it’s the Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Navy or Coast Guard, at the end of the day we’re all fighting for the same team. Less than 1 percent of the American population answers the call to serve and even fewer end up serving in more than one branch.

First Lt. Ryan Allen, 56th Mission Support Group executive officer, is one of the few that has served in two branches. Allen was enlisted in the Marine Corps for 16 years before making the decision to commission into the Air Force.

Allen enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve Aug. 30, 2000, as a Motor Transport Operator.

“I’ve always been up for a challenge, and I like the uniforms,” said Allen. “I’m 5 feet 5 ½ inches tall. The little guys always have something to prove.”

Lance Cpl. Ryan Allen, Motor Transport Operator, sits on the ground in 2001, at Ft. Leornardwood, Mo. Allen was enrolled in the MTO Course, now known as the Motor Vehicle Operator Course, where he learned the basics of operating motor transport equipment, cargo loading, preventative maintenance checks and services, and more. (Courtesy photograph)

Allen went on two deployments in Iraq as an MTO in 2003 and 2005. He became a 4th Marine Logistics Group training manager at the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center, N.C., in 2006. He was later offered a position with the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from 2009 to 2012.

The WWR gives medical care to combat and non-combat wounded, ill and injured Marines and sailors attached to Marine units, as well as their families.

“There were 11 Marines in a sea of 80,000 Air Force and Army,” said Allen. “It was our job to keep our eyes on the Marines. We tracked them administratively, provided for them if they needed help, and made sure they made it back to the states.”

Allen was assigned to the WWR at the Marine Corps Base, Hawaii, from 2012 to 2014. The mission wasn’t as focused on the quick turnaround to care, but more focused on the service member’s recovery from combat and transition into civilian life.

Allen had a direct role in people’s recovery and noticed a tangible difference was made in the lives of the patients. Those experiences impacted him more as a person and a service member more than any experience he’s ever had, Allen explained.

Vehicle Operator and Squad Leader poses with the 3rd Platoon, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, following a resupply convoy in 2005, in northern Iraq. Cpl. Ryan Allen, during his two deployments in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM in 2003 and 2005, conducted over 65 combat logistics patrols traversing more than 7,700 miles, delivering crucial supplies throughout the Al Anbar province. (Courtesy photograph)

“The WWR was extremely rewarding for me,” said Allen. “There were moments where I saw individuals succeed that never thought they would be able to and shared the agony when people weren’t able to make the recovery they had hoped. My experiences with recovering service members helped me understand that people is what it’s all about.”

Allen finished his last two years in the Marine Corps as a gunnery sergeant as an enlisted recruiter and a recruiting station commander in Greenville, S.C. In order to continue with his career, the Marine Corps offered him a position as a career recruiter, which required another 10 year commitment to reach retirement.

“There were a lot of highs and lows to recruiting,” said Allen. “You can enjoy it while it’s going great, but when it’s going poorly, it’s tough. I had to decide what the best thing for my family was, and that was to put in an application to commission with the Air Force.” 

In September of 2016, Allen left for Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. He arrived at Luke three months after as a 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron logistics readiness officer.

“The officer route is a little bit different,” said Allen. “My ability to communicate, lead and inspire fit the officer role more than the enlisted path I was on.”

One of Allen’s favorite perspectives he’s adopted is ‘Your leadership is not defined by how many subordinates you have, but how many leaders you create.’ Knowing that he is contributing to the mission and impacting people positively drives him in his career.

Allen has found a way to impact people not only in his profession, but also through doing something he loves: hockey.
“Hockey is my thing,” said Allen. “That’s how I relax, decompress and further destroy my aging body.”

First Lt. Ryan Allen, 56th Mission Support Group executive officer, prepares to face a shot during game three of the 2018 Armed Services Hockey Championships, Nov. 7-11, 2018, in Las Vegas. The Luke Thunderbolts eventually took away the New Dawn division championship following a win over the Badger Militia, from the 176th Fighter Squadron, Wisconsin Air National Guard. (Courtesy photograph)

Allen started the Luke Thunderbolts Hockey Club, with more than 100 members made up of Active Duty members, reservists, dependents, retirees and Department of Defense contractors. The four teams travel throughout Phoenix and play in local recreational matches and national tournaments.

“I was one of the original members of the hockey club at Luke,” said Master Sgt. Christopher McGuire, 62nd Air Maintenance Unit, F-35 Lightning II production superintendent. “Without his efforts we wouldn’t have grown the way we did and wouldn’t have the support we have now. I am very proud of the chances I’ve had to stand with 1st Lt. Allen on the ice and represent Luke playing the sport I love!”

Allen has impacted lives during his time in both of the branches he’s served in, no matter what point in life he was at. Commissioning into the Air Force has given him and his wife a fresh start.

“When you’re younger you don’t see the impact you’re making,” said Allen. “When people down the road reach out to you to share good or bad news, it’s then that you realize you impact people.”