Ryan Kaiser has spent his adult life a long way from home.
Kaiser, 29, who graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in 2007, has spent the past decade touring the world, compliments of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Kaiser, a staff sergeant with Brovo Company, 2-506th, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne, recently returned from a deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he did a nine-month tour of duty. "Our battalion was tasked with providing transportation and security to advisors who moved throughout the country," Kaiser explained.
Kabul, he said, is very different than his hometown of Greencastle.
"Kabul is a very large city. There's not very many tall buildings, but they do have a couple buildings downtown that are 12 or 14 stories tall," he said. "It has very dense traffic."
Kaiser said Kabul sits about 6,000 feet above sea level.
"It's high plains kinda like Idaho. There's still mountains you can see."
There's not many streams or rivers there and fields are irrigated by wells.
Kaiser said that part of Afghanistan has all four seasons, but fall and winter are really brief. "It can get down into the teens in winter, but up to about 100 degrees in the summertime," he said.
Kaiser's time in the Middle East was well spent. He was awarded a Bronze Star "for operating outside his parameters as a Staff Sergeant, able to lead his soldiers and operate as an independent group with minimum involvement from senior leaders. He provided secured transportation for generals and officers both foreign and domestic, to include German, British, Australian,Turkish and Afghan."
His most recent tour of duty was his fourth abroad. He is currently stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
"My current job is squad leader in my platoon," he said. "I'm in charge of 9 to 11 soldiers."
Life in the Army isn't easy, no matter where he is stationed.
"When I'm back here stateside, I could be working 9 to 5 or I could be doing field training for weeks at a time," Kaiser explained. "Typically, I leave my house about 4:45 a.m., go to work for formation at 6:30, then do an hour and a half of physical training, before I have breakfast, shower and spend 8 hours doing tasks.
And then he drives home to the family that awaits him.
Kaiser and his wife, Shelby, have four children — two boys and two girls.
His family life offers the greatest reward, but also the greatest challenge when he is deployed.
"Trying to be a parent over the phone or on Skype is tough, trying to stay actively involved with the kids while being halfway around the world," he said. "There is only so much you can show and talk about on the phone. It's a lot easier doing it face-to-face."
Transitioning from being overseas for nearly a year to being home takes patience. "I have to try to find where I fit in at my home life," he explained. "My wife and kids had their own schedules while I was gone. It takes a lot of patience for everybody to find where you fit in."
But he has help re-acclimating. "The Army does a great job of that," he said.
Family is what steered Kaiser to a military career. "My father and grandfather were both in Army," he said. "I started in the National Guard and went to Iraq and liked what I was doing and the reason I was doing it. My family raised me to be a patriot and to respect the government and do the service. I like knowing you're doing something bigger than yourself."