JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Tristan Ryan, a recruiter at Port Angeles Recruiting Station, Wash., was recently elected to serve as commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4760 in Sequim, Wash.
The VFW is a national organization consisting of American veterans of war. Its mission is to foster camaraderie among U.S. veterans of overseas conflicts, serve our veterans, the military, and our communities and to advocate on behalf of all veterans.
Members of the post stay involved in activities such as Make a Difference Day, collecting Cell Phones for soldiers and raising money for community youth activities.
The city of Sequim is located between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and has a population of 6,624, which largely contrasts with Ryan’s hometown of Reno, Nev. What the two cities do have in common though is the similar climate as both sit in a mountain range rain shadow causing low amounts of rainfall and mild weather.
It has been a long journey from Reno to Sequim.
After graduating Proctor R. Hug High School in 2005, Ryan worked as a shift manager of a pizza restaurant and could only afford to pay for rent, gas and car insurance, leaving her no room in her pocketbook for hot water and power in her home.
“I needed a change in my life and a career that would challenge me,” Ryan said.
Coming from a family with a military background in the Navy, Marines and Air Force, Ryan opted to enlist in the Army. She shipped off to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for basic training in November 2006 and graduated as an Army intelligence analyst from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in June 2007.
“The Army fit best with my personality and meshed well with how I wanted to live my life,” Ryan said.
As with any career change, it took awhile for Ryan to adapt to Army life. She struggled with her weight, causing her to miss out on an automatic promotion to specialist.
During deployment to Iraq 2008-2009, Ryan met a noncommissioned officer who motivated her to get in shape and advance her career.
“My NCO taught me about nutrition and physical fitness,” Ryan said. “Shortly after losing weight, I attended a Soldier of the Month Board and everything seemed to fall in place.”
Now a staff sergeant, Ryan has temporarily shifted from working as an intelligence analyst to working as a recruiter, putting her on a path toward promotion.
“She [Ryan] is squared away, motivated and very good with paperwork,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Fletcher, commander, PARS. “She treats our future soldiers as if they were already a part of the team.”
Her favorite part of recruiting is keeping future soldiers engaged and to help them with prepare for basic training.
Ryan personally helped two young soldiers who were struggling at a nearby high school to graduate.
“She [Ryan] stepped up the last few months of their senior year,” Fletcher said. “She sacrificed her own time to develop relationships with their teachers and ensured they completed all of their school assignments.”
Ryan also spends her time off volunteering in the community as a member of the VFW, American Legion and the American Legion Riders. She is also the second ever, female commander of VFW Post 4760, and by many accounts, is doing well.
“She [Ryan] has concern in her demeanor and is not afraid to back down from a situation,” said Bob Woeck, VFW district 14 commander. “We have more veterans coming in after she brought in a service officer to take care of their medical needs.”
Despite her busy schedule, Ryan manages to squeeze in hours to further her education and is currently pursuing two bachelor's degrees simultaneously. One degree in criminal justice and the other in microbiology and biochemistry, leading her on a path to medical school.
“When I was in high school, my class and I visited an anatomy lab at the University of Neveda, Reno,” Ryan said. “I got to see a cadaver and decided then that one day I would be a forensic pathologist.”
Once Ryan gets accepted into medical school, she plans on returning to the Army career as an officer until she retires.
“Enlisting in the United States Army has been the best decision of my life,” Ryan said. “It provides me with financial stability, job security, opportunities to travel all around the world and broaden my education.”
For now, she enjoys being an NCO and having the additional responsibility of commanding a VFW post, receiving praise for her hard work.
“She is the best commander I’ve worked with,” Woeck said of Ryan. “My hope for her is that she will eventually become a state commander or national representative. There is a negative stigma about women in the VFW and she’s the woman to change it.”