To promote his book An Angel From Hell, author Ryan A. Conklin was a guest on the radio program “Dateline: Washington”, hosted by Greg Corombos.
Greg asked Ryan about how Ryan knew right away after 9/11 that he wanted to join the Army. Ryan replied that he was what is known as a “9/11 baby”. He was one of the people that caused recruitment in the military to soar after the attacks. Ryan joined during his junior year in high school, when he was looking for what to do after he graduated. He wasn’t ready to go to college, so there was nothing pulling him away from joining. He wanted to go to Afghanistan to “put it to it to the guys who started this.” Furthermore, he didn’t want a cushy job. He wanted a front line job that would allow him to look the enemy in the eye. He decided the best fit for him would be in the infantry, and that’s what he got.
Greg mentioned that in the book, Ryan tells about having several different kinds of jobs. Greg wanted to know if Ryan’s training helped him. Ryan answered that the two years of training he had before he deployed to Iraq helped, but there was a “lack of accurate training”. It was cold war style, training in the woods in green camo with green face paint, and learning how to attack a bunker. There were essential things for being in Iraq that weren’t taught, like speaking Arabic. Once he got to Iraq, Ryan found himself learning as he went along on what he needed to know. Greg also asked about what urban fighting is like. Ryan said that it is about going out and being seen. It could be boring, but there were intense times with IEDs and sniper fire. Ryan explained that you always have to be ready and focused. It can be “zero to hell” in a second.
On the psychological toll, Ryan said it depended on who you are with. It can actually be comical in a Humvee. He said you would think the soldiers would be wide-eyed, staring out the window waiting for something to happen. In fact there is a lot of joking around, while still doing their job. It’s a way to make the best of it. Cutting the tension keeps people’s sanity and keeps them from being too wound up. Ryan said if you don’t have a sense of humor, you are doomed.
Greg asked Ryan Conklin what he hoped people would learn from the book. Ryan said that he wrote about what he saw and didn’t go above his area of knowledge. His style was to write like he was telling his story directly to an individual who knew nothing about what the service was like. From what he has been told by people who have read it, it makes the readers feel like they are out on patrol with Ryan, seeing what he saw.