Flying high

BGSU aviation student flew BGSU flag over Afghanistan

By Amber Stark ’99

Earlier this year, Bowling Green State University aviation student Bryan Bills received a care package from Nontraditional and Military Student Services, BGSU’s Student Veterans of America organization and BGSU Athletics that has had a lasting impact.

The package, which Bills received while deployed in Afghanistan with the Ohio National Guard, included a BGSU flag and a football used in a BGSU game.

“I loved getting a care package from my coworkers,” Bills said. “Care packages mean the world to us when we are deployed and missing home.”

Bills flew the BGSU flag over Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan in July and Ohio National Guard soldiers signed the football while in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Afghanistan. The flag will be displayed in the new Military and Veteran Student Center in the College Park Building. The football may also be displayed in the center in the future.

A specialist in the Ohio National Guard, Bills is trained as a radio and communications security repairer; however, during his last deployment with the 1194th Engineer Company from Chillicothe, Ohio, he served as a carpentry and masonry specialist. This was Bills’ second voluntary deployment. In 2014, he went to Afghanistan with the 1191st Engineer Company from Portsmouth, Ohio.

Bills was one of two veteran students honored at the Sept. 10 Military Appreciation football game.

“For six years, BGSU has been proud to honor and spotlight a veteran student at the Military Appreciation football game,” said Barb Henry, assistant vice president for Nontraditional and Transfer Student Services. “The staff in Nontraditional and Military Student Services select student veterans who have just returned from deployments such as Bryan and someone who served active duty, is now a veteran and is a senior. These veterans exemplify selfless service to our nation and we are so proud of them and all that they have accomplished.”

Steven Allgire, a senior construction management student from Grand Rapids, Ohio, was also honored at the game. He is a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps.

Bills chose to join the Ohio National Guard in 2012 as a 17-year-old junior in high school. The Coldwater, Ohio, native didn’t know what he was going to do after high school until a recruiter visited his school.

“He told me I could see the world,” Bills said.

Since then, he has been to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany and Canada.

While he didn’t know it when he enlisted, Bills’ grandfather was also in the National Guard. He also had an uncle in the Air Force and an uncle in the Army.

Bills learned basic soldiering tasks two days a month while in high school to get ready for basic training and AIT, Advanced Individual Training. He completed basic training between his junior and senior years of high school and then went to AIT, where he learned communications security repair, an area he was interested in from his time at Tri Star Vocational School.

“I was studying electronics and the recruiter said it was something I could continue to do in the National Guard,” Bills said about how he chose his job.

In 2014, Bills started classes at BGSU. He said he chose aviation as his major because his grandfather and uncle flew airplanes.

While at BSGU, Bills has been a member of the BGSU Student Veterans of America organization and has worked in the Nontraditional and Military Student Services Office.

“It is an underutilized office,” he said. “There are 700 people on campus using benefits and we are here to help. It is fulfilling work.”

Bills added that he would recommend BGSU to other veterans.

“It’s a good size; it’s a good community,” he said.

Bills’ time in the Ohio National Guard is up in a little over a year. Shortly after, he will graduate from BGSU and plans to join the Air Force.