CAMP TAJI — By day, he works magic controlling unmanned aerial vehicles, helping keep ground patrols safe with protection from the skies.
At night, he works magic of a different sort — making coins disappear and cards appear out of nowhere, bringing smiles wherever he performs his arsenal of magic tricks.
The art of magic has been a lifetime passion for Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Allan, from Marysvale, Utah, and a UAV technician for Quick Reaction Capability 1, attached to 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division — Center.
He became fascinated with magic as a youngster.
"When I was about six or seven, my uncle performed a card trick and it sparked something in me — I just wanted to get the laughs and participation that he had," Allan, 33, said. "From that time on, I started buying all the different tricks and trying to learn them."
As Allan got older, he harbored ambitions of being a professional magician but soon realized it was unrealistic.
"There was a time if you asked me what I want to be I would have said, 'I want to go to [Las] Vegas and be a magician,'" Allan said; 'but I quickly learned that wasn't going to pay the bills, so I changed my mind."
Allan said he pursued magic as a side hobby but when he joined the Army eight years ago, he started taking magic much more seriously and improved significantly as a result.
"I figured if I could develop this skill a little better, I'd be able to pass it on to others," he said.
The practice has paid off for Allan, who said he has become recognized around Camp Taji for his magic tricks, which he is always happy to display.
"When I go to pick up my laundry, the [employees] there always ask me for a card trick or a coin trick and before I know, it I'm there 20 to 30 minutes and the place is filled up with Soldiers," Allan said. "I'll apologize to them, but they'll say, 'No, show us another trick.'"
"It's kind of a break in the monotony that everyone needs ... it's pretty positive," he continued. "The hairdressers ask me for tricks and I'll ask them, 'How did you guys know I do card tricks?' The word has gotten around."
The novelty of Allan's magic is keenly felt by Spc. Joshua Palowitch, from Grayson, Ky., a UAV operator, QRC-1, who said Allan has taught him several tricks.
"He's teaching me his ways," Palowitch said. "He'll learn a new trick and come to me with it. He shows me how he's doing with it and sees if he can get it by me."
Palowitch said he enjoys Allan's array of tricks involving cards and coins, as do the rest of the QRC-1 team.
"It's really awesome seeing him come up with new tricks all the time. It boosts our morale," he said. "When we go to different places like the [laundry facility], he'll do tricks for them, and it's cool to see their reactions and the smiles on their faces."
Allan said he likes teaching his tricks to those who are curious about his skills because it may benefit others.
"Every dad should know a couple of tricks just to be able to wow their kids," Allan said. "So when I see someone who's really interested and I think they would be able to make someone smile when they go home on leave, I'll send a trick home with them."
Once his Army career is over, Allan said he would like to showcase his magic in settings that involve good causes.
"I have some long-term goals. ... Once my Army career is over, I'd like to do more fundraisers for schools," he said. "I'm big into foster care and they do a lot of fundraisers, so I think that's a good way to help the community and progress in this talent.
"I just want to share it with others."
This work, UAV operator brings smiles to Soldiers through magic skills, by Alun Thomas, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.