During the recent Pennsylvania Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars’ State Convention in Erie, more than 300 VFW leaders and members honored Pennsylvania Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ryan as the latest recipient of the prestigious Pennsylvania VFW Eagle Award. The VFW Department presents this award to recognize Commonwealth Guardians for the significant impact they have had on overseas military campaign success to preserve the cause of freedom.
Ryan serves with the 111th Security Forces Squadron, 111th Attack Wing, Horsham Air Guard Station, and he lives in Staten Island, N.Y.
He was nominated for the VFW award by Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General’s Office for his distinguished service to protect freedom across the world during Operations Freedom Sentinel and Inherent Resolve, both conducted in the Middle East.
“Staff Sergeant Ryan’s professionalism, capabilities and dedication to the National Guard mission is impressive and impactful,” said 2018-19 VFW State Commander Thomas M. Hanzes, a Vietnam War veteran, who presented the award. “His presence on duty, whether deployed overseas or serving at his home National Guard station in Horsham, keeps his comrades, leaders, VIPs and base territory secure and mission ready. It takes a team to successfully carry out missions and achieve objectives. Sergeant Ryan’s ability to maintain a secure working environment is critical to keeping our troops and their equipment safe.
“It’s National Guardians like Staff Sergeant Ryan who allow our nation to rely so heavily on citizens soldiers to protect our homeland and to supplement active duty troops on overseas mission,” Commander Hanzes continued. “This VFW Eagle Award was created to spotlight outstanding Guardians like him and to showcase how proud the VFW is of all they do to keep our nation’s Armed Forces as the best fighting force in the world.”
As a Security Forces Specialist, State Sergeant Ryan’s mission is to protect the people, property and resources of the United States Air Force. As a member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, this job and the tasks required become slightly more unique and diverse. This requires extensive training in law enforcement and combat tactics since he works both on domestic National Guard missions and assignments in overseas war zones.
Security Forces members identify and deliver emergent and future force protection and force application solutions through modeling and simulation. Staff Sergeant Ryan balances all the necessary requirements of a Security Forces Member while maintaining a full-time career as a New York City Police Officer.
In August of 2014, Staff Sergeant Ryan enlisted in the United States Air Force and officially became a member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. On April 17, 2015, he graduated Basic Training and then attended the Security Forces Academy. Upon returning to Horsham Air Guard Station in the summer of 2015, he remained on active duty orders to provide crucial security for the 2015 Philadelphia papal visit.
In 2017, Staff Sergeant Ryan deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates in support of Operation FREEDOM SENTINEL and Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. While deployed, he played a key role training 12 Airmen as Host Nation Base Defense Operation Control Center liaisons, providing a valuable connection to the Emirate Government and improving host nation relations.
While in the United Arab Emirates, his Inherent Resolve Campaign duty focused specifically on aiding the push to take back Mosul, Iraq. His Operation Freedom Sentinel duty helped continue counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
For his excellent work overseas, now Staff Sergeant Ryan received an Air Force Achievement Medal, the Operation Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal and the Air Force Expeditionary Service Medal.
He has also been honored as the Airman of the Year for the 111th Attack Wing, and as Airman of the Year for the entire Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
“I can't begin to explain how grateful and truly humbled I am to receive this award,” stated Staff Sergeant Ryan, who was joined at the presentation in Erie by his unit commander, Lieutenant Colonel James P. Williams. “Receiving the VFW Eagle Award is one of the most special experiences of my life. Colonel Williams and I felt honored to share such a memorable VFW Convention experience with all the VFW members there from all service eras. I am also proud to call myself a new VFW life member.”
In addition to his military service, Ryan’s career includes extensive law enforcement activity, which started in 2012 when he attended the Philadelphia Police Academy as the youngest recruit in his class. He graduated in July of 2013 receiving the “Top Marksman Award” of his graduating class. He worked as a Philadelphia Police Officer until January of 2015.
Upon returning home from his overseas military deployment, he entered the New York City Police Academy where he would go on to become a “Distinguished Graduate” in July of 2018. He is currently assigned to the 10th Precinct.
Ryan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.
In addition to honoring and supporting military personnel, State VFW units donated more than $3 million in scholarships, youth support, charitable donations, public safety donations, troop support and community projects last year. During those 12 months, VFW members volunteered more than $10 million worth of volunteer service to support their fellow veterans, military troops and communities.
VFW donations improve lives for people of all ages and from all walks of life including youth, senior citizens, less fortunate persons, scouting and sports teams, public safety units, and those impacted by health crises, car accidents, fires and floods. VFW Service Officers gave Pennsylvania veterans free help with getting more than $30 million in federal benefits last year; nationally, VFW Service Officers connected veterans with $4 billion in federal benefits. Across the nation, the VFW gave military families more than $4 million in emergency financial grants last year.