Face of Defense: Career Spans Two Services, Two Wars

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — On Feb. 23, 1991, Army Pfc. Roy Bent­ley was in Sau­di Ara­bia serv­ing with the 2nd Armored Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment as an armored crew­man when the ground war began dur­ing Oper­a­tion Desert Storm.
Exact­ly 20 years lat­er, on Feb. 23, 2011, Air Force Maj. Roy Bent­ley land­ed in Kuwait with the 17th Air­lift Squadron en route to his deploy­ment with the 817th Expe­di­tionary Air­lift Squadron — this time as a C‑17 pilot sup­port­ing oper­a­tions Endur­ing Free­dom and New Dawn.

C-17 Globemaster III
Air Force Maj. Roy Bent­ley flies a C‑17 Globe­mas­ter III in South­west Asia in March 2011.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

“The 2nd Cav­al­ry was the spear­head for the 7th Corps move­ment into Iraq” dur­ing Desert Storm, Bent­ley said. “We were the lead unit for the right hook. The cav­al­ry is the eyes and ears of the corps.” 

Bent­ley remained on active duty with the Army until July 1992, when he then joined the Army Nation­al Guard and used his GI Bill ben­e­fits to go to col­lege. In 1998, he was accept­ed into the Air Force’s Offi­cer Train­ing School, and he began pilot train­ing in 1999. 

Today, Bent­ley is a C‑17 instruc­tor pilot assigned to the 17th Air­lift Squadron here. He is deployed to Man­as Air Base, Kyr­gyzs­tan, one of three loca­tions where the squadron is based dur­ing this deploy­ment rotation. 

The air mobil­i­ty mis­sion has played a key role in oper­a­tions Iraqi Free­dom, Endur­ing Free­dom and New Dawn. While deployed, the squadron is pro­vid­ing air­lift for troops and pas­sen­gers, mil­i­tary equip­ment, car­go and aeromed­ical air­lift. It also con­ducts mis­sions involv­ing the air­land or air­drop of troops, equip­ment and sup­plies to warfight­ers in aus­tere locations. 

As some­one who has been on both sides of the coin, Bent­ley said, he knows how impor­tant the air mobil­i­ty mis­sion is and what it can mean to the warfight­er on the ground. 

“At the end of the ground war in 1991, the sup­ply line was stretched, and we were with­out our nor­mal rations for three weeks,” he said. “We did have Chef Boyardee Bee­fa­roni as a meal sup­ple­ment to our nor­mal meals ready to eat. When the MREs ran out, it was Bee­fa­roni for break­fast, lunch and din­ner. I haven’t eat­en it since.” 

While the mis­sion is cer­tain­ly dif­fer­ent this time around for Bent­ley, he has a true appre­ci­a­tion for the ser­vice mem­bers who are on the ground. 

“I can relate to the men and women I am drop­ping off and pick­ing up in the­ater,” he said. “I under­stand that all the sup­plies we deliv­er are sore­ly need­ed by the peo­ple on the ground. I take great pride in mov­ing the troops around the­ater, tak­ing the time to talk with them and encour­ag­ing them dur­ing their deployment.” 

Look­ing back on his deploy­ment dur­ing the Gulf War, Bent­ley said his time in a tank was much dif­fer­ent from time in a C‑17.

“Life in a tank was bet­ter than life on the ground,” he said. “We had a place to eat, sleep and stay pro­tect­ed. There was­n’t too much to wor­ry about in a tank, except anoth­er tank.” 

So how is time spent in a C‑17 different? 

“Life on the C‑17 is nice. We have a work­ing toi­let onboard, and at every stop you can find a place to show­er,” he said. “Not tak­ing a show­er for six months is not an expe­ri­ence I want to repeat. I always tell the guys that I have had my Air Force appre­ci­a­tion tour. No mat­ter how bad you think you have it, there is always some­one out there who has it worse.” 

Dur­ing this cur­rent deploy­ment, Bent­ley is the Detach­ment 2 com­man­der for the squadron at Man­as and has been fly­ing with two of the squadron’s newest pilots. 

“Being able to pass on my know-how and devel­op­ing the skills of those younger air­men has been reward­ing,” Bent­ley said. 

Just as it was by chance that Bent­ley land­ed in Kuwait 20 years to the day of the start of the ground war in Oper­a­tion Desert Storm, he’s also leav­ing in the same fash­ion. “I was rede­ployed to Ger­many in May 1991, and I’m slat­ed to return to Charleston in May 2011,” he said. 

Bentley’s fel­low air­men at Man­as could­n’t let this mile­stone pass with­out a few good-natured jabs. 

“I was the young guy dur­ing the first Gulf War,” he said. “The young guys [here] keep remind­ing me that I am the old man this time around.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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