Ryan Bulger graduated from Mountain Valley High School in 2002. His class watched the Twin Towers fall on Sept. 11, 2001. They saw two other planes crash – one into the Pentagon and one in Pennsylvania.
So several members of that class chose to do something to prevent further attacks; they joined the armed forces.
Ryan eventually became Sgt. Bulger of the Maine Army National Guard out of Camp Keyes in Augusta. He served from 2003 to 2009 and was honorably discharged.
He began his service at Fort Benning, GA, for Basic Training, followed by Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Jackson, SC.
Asked what his job was in the Guard, Sgt. Bulger said, “That’s kinda a funny story. I thought I would help out from home and I wanted to learn a trade. I joined as a mechanic but didn’t spend much time turning wrenches.”
He continued, “I worked on special orders and I was an assistant for a recruiter. I did talk to a few kids at Mountain Valley but mostly worked in the Norway area.”
Like many National Guard units, Sgt. Bulger was deployed in 2005 to Iraq with the 152 Maintenance Company.
In terms of a job, Sgt. Bulger explained, “I expected that we were going to do our job as mechanics but that turned out not to be the case. Our official orders came in Kuwait. We landed in Bagdad in April. Most of us ended up doing security detail on Camp Liberty.
My mission was part of a 17-man crew that did convoy security. Our call sign was Black Bear (call Brother Bear on Facebook). I was on about 110 combat missions. Then I was on an observation tower on Camp Liberty as part of a sniper team.” Except for his deployment and a brief stint with another maintenance company out of Bangor, Sgt. Bulger was stationed at Camp Keyes.
In terms of his motivation to enlist, two themes emerge. He wasn’t ready for college and 9/11.
Sgt. Bulger explained, “I tried college but wasn’t ready for it. I was still a teenager and wanted some adventure. My girlfriend joined right out of high school.”
He continued, “9/11 was still fresh in my mind. Some of my classmates like Norm Voter, Kevin Sirois, Cory Provencher and Sonie Wesley were already in. I gave it a lot of thought but it seemed like the thing to do at the time.”
Now that Sgt. Bulger is a civilian, he has found life different than those who have not experienced combat. “I’ve played music in bands. I haven’t been able to stick to a 9 to 5 job where I have to deal with the public. I enjoy playing music a lot. It’s calming.”
He recently played guitar in Stereotype on New Year’s Eve in Portland. They also appeared at 49 Franklin Street in Rumford.
Sgt. Bulger is the son of Bert Donahue from Dixfield and Edward Bulger from Rumford. He is very proud of his younger brother, Gavin Bulger, who is a junior at Maine College of Art in Portland. Shirley and Robert Bomaster of Jay are his grandparents.