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U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Michael Wagner Served Three Deployments

SPC. Michael Wagner (when he first enlisted) and SPC. Eduardo Vasquez refueling after responding to the U.N. Compound bombing.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Wagner served three deployments over a span of 11 years. Shortly after being honorably discharged in 2014, Wagner made his way back to the Community. He is currently a tribal employee, working as an environmental health technician.

Wagner, 34, is the son of Community member Wendy Wagner. He is the grandson of Community member Merna Wagner and the great-grandson of Community member Theodore Enos, Sr. and Lena Enos of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. He currently resides in Maricopa.

Wagner’s journey started in June 2002. Although he had two years of college education under his belt along with playing collegiate baseball, he felt as though he needed to do more. His cousin brother enlisted in the military, and it caught Wagner’s attention. He soon found himself in the U.S. Army recruitment office in Chandler.

“One day I went in for a follow-up, and Pat Tillman was in the recruiting office. My recruiter was Pat Tillman’s recruiter. I grew up watching him [play football] with ASU and the Cardinals. I was in awe. I was like, ‘Man, he’s joining?” Wagner said. “September 11 had already happened. But at that time there weren’t really any wars going on. We hadn’t invaded Afghanistan, until I was about to leave for basic training. I thought, ‘I saw my cousin do it and I saw this athlete do it, so I’m going to do it.’ So I did.”

Wagner planned to stay in the army for only four years. He served basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and went on to Army medic training in San Antonio, Texas, at Fort Sam Houston. His first duty station was Fort Polk, La., where he served with the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment, 3rd Squadron, and was then deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, from April 2003 to July 2004.

“The first four months were bad. I remember lying there at night in 130-degree heat sweating it out. We had one fan for all of us. In the morning, I would be drenched in sweat and you could see salt rings on my cot. That’s how hot it was,” said Wagner. His squad was one of the first ones to arrive in Iraq.

Photo was taken at Camp Muleskinner, Bagdad, Iraq in April 2003.
During this time, Wagner and his squad had to ration out four bottles of water and were only allowed two MRE’s (Meal Ready-to-Eat) a day. Wagner lost about 40-pounds in this dreadful heat.

Wagner then went to Fort Sill, Okla., where he worked in a clinic providing care to soldiers in basic training for a year. Then he was re-assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he served with the 1st Cavalry Division 3rd Brigade Combat Team, where he went on to his second deployment to Mosul, Iraq, from October 2006 to December 2007 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“During my first deployment, I felt invincible. Almost like nobody could hurt me. I had that attitude. But IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were going off, people were getting shot or hit with RPG’s (rocket-propelled grenade). We lost about eight people in my squadron during my first deployment. Fortunately, during my second deployment I was only hit with two IED’s. I soon learned that I wasn’t invincible and that I was blessed to be alive and return home,” said Wagner.

Wagner was then assigned to the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he spent six months working in the emergency room and then became the ward master for labor and delivery.

Photo was taken at Camp Muleskinner, Bagdad, Iraq in April 2003.
In October 2010, he went on his third deployment, to Area Support Group in Camp As Sayliyah, Doha, Qatar, where he was the medical non-commissioned officer in charge of the troop medical clinic, returning stateside in July 2012. For his two final tours he was assigned to the 434th Field Artillery Brigade as a medical instructor. Wagner taught tactical combat casualty care to basic-training soldiers. He gave lessons on various medical interventions that could save a soldier’s life on the battlefield.

“Initially, I was only going in for four years. But, it grew on me, the comradery, the people I met and I grew. I gained rank quicker and that kept me in,” said Wagner. “Being a veteran is something I’m proud of and something I’m willing to share. We’re a small number of individuals and we need to support one another. Here in the Community, they do a great job at supporting veterans.”

Thank you for your service!