Local veteran loves serving his country

Tyrel Dean, an Iraq-war veteran and current Army reservist, works full-time at the sporting goods department of Murdoch’s while he awaits upcoming deployment orders. (HERALD PHOTO/Amanda Manchester).

EVANSTON — “I joined combat arms at a time of war to do my job,” says Tyrel Dean, and Iraq-war veteran and current Army reservist.  “I love what I do. I probably won’t get out after twenty years. I just love it; training troops, the camaraderie, shooting guns, everything.  There isn’t a part of the military I hate.  And I’ve gotten to see more of the world than most people.”

Dean, a native Iowan who moved around a lot growing up, now calls Evanston home.

He enlisted in the Army in April 2009 as an M1 Abrams tank crew member. While stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado, he was deployed Iraq, serving in the city of Basra and at Al Asad Airbase from 2010-11.  “We were glorified infantry, conducting combat patrols with the Iraqi Army and police.  We became a heavy advisory brigade.” 

“It was a very good time. We weren’t there during mass chaos, there were only minor situations,” Dean said.  Situations such as “taking friendly fire from the Iraqi Army. Due to bad intel [intelligence], we became the target.  Rockets were blowing up 150 feet in front of us, but we got lucky because they can’t shoot.”

There were other close calls, including fortuitously taking an incorrect turn.  “While on combat patrol our truck turned right instead of left.  The convoy behind us went where we were supposed to go and got hit with IEDs [improvised explosive device].  It would have been us.”  Fortunately, he said there weren’t any fatalities from that attack, but there were injuries.

Other than general wear and tear on his body from carrying 80 pounds of gear, jumping into and out of “rattle traps” -tanks and Humvees- during deployments, and minor hearing loss and tinnitus, Dean has remained mostly healthy during his nearly 15-year-career. “I’d say I’m pretty lucky, considering I’ve been to Iraq.  I do have some issues with crowds though.”

Dean, the single father of two young boys, switched gears and jobs when he left active-duty service in 2015 and joined the Army Reserves. He went from tank operator to horizontal construction engineer and fueler.

“I was looking for a change of pace, and I chose that job because it translates well to the civilian sector,” he said.

During his time as a reservist, Dean saw his second year-long deployment to Poland and Turkey, the latter where he spent the majority of his time near the Syrian border in 2019-20. “I was doing supply and running fuel as part of the Combat Support Sustainability Brigade.  It was actually a pretty quiet deployment, for me anyway.”

When not activated for duty, either stateside or on a 9–12-month deployment overseas, Dean works for Murdoch’s as a sporting goods associate. He also used his post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for tuition pursuing an associate’s degree in firearm technology, and is currently pursuing a drone pilot certification, both through Sonoran Desert Institute. 

Dean, who is currently a promotable sergeant, will be shipping out again in February for a deployment to “somewhere in the Middle East.”  When asked how he’s feeling about another lengthy and potentially dangerous deployment, Dean says, “I love deployments. It’s when I get to go do my job for real.  I don’t do it for the money, that’s for sure. I do it for the country.”

He’s also grateful for the support network available to his sons through family, and for the technology available to stay connected to them while he’s away.  “I get some benefits, but being a military lifer isn’t easy.”

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