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Army pilot lands at SJU

Lt. Col. Richard Gulley has flown all over the world, from Kosovo to Rwanda, and he has now anchored himself as the newest addition in St. John’s University’s ROTC program to which he hopes to draw not just recruits but those interested in learning a little more about the military.

“If I get a kid to come in for even just a semester, and he goes on to become a senator, then that’s better for all of us that he knows about the Army,” said Gulley, an assistant professor of military science and recruiting operating officer at SJU.

Gulley, 45, who has served in the Army for more than 22 years, began his one-year stint at St. John’s a little more than six weeks ago. In his new position, he will try to draw individuals to St. John’s ROTC program, just one of two in the city and the only one in Queens.

There are now about 104 ROTC students at St. John’s, with the majority of them being from Queens. There are also students from Brooklyn and Long Island.

“We are building the next Greatest Generation,” Gulley said, referring to the term used to describe those who fought in World War II.

Gulley grew up in a small town in Oregon in a family that had little money to send him to college, so the lieutenant colonel decided the military was a good way to be able to afford higher education. He had always been interested in the military and flying, so he joined the ROTC program at Oregon State.

“I went through the ROTC interview process, and the next thing I know I had a full ride to school, money for books, a stipend and a guaranteed job when I was done,” Gulley said.

He went on to graduate from flight school and he began flying commercially for US Airways at the same time Chesley B. Sullenberger was working for the company.

“I was flying commercially, but after Sept. 11 I lost my job,” Gulley said. “Thank God the Army gave me a job while I looked for another job.”

Gulley worked in the military until 2005, when he began his career with Forest Hills-based JetBlue. He is now on military leave from JetBlue, which will hold a job for him until he is able to return.

He worked in 2006 for NATO in Kosovo. He was then stationed in Germany from December 2006 to September 2009, during which time he served a one-year tour in the Middle East and was the Joint Task Force commander for former President George W. Bush’s trip to Rwanda in 2008.

“That was one of the highlights of my career,” Gulley said of Rwanda. “It took two months of planning and thousands of personnel to support the president’s five-nation tour of Africa. I was responsible for Rwanda.”

The military landscape has changed dramatically since Gulley went to school, and he said a reservist like himself will probably be sent overseas. Being in the U.S. Army is obviously not easy, Gulley said, as individuals have to leave family and friends and memories of combat can make tears spring to his eyes.

“Getting ripped away from my child when he was 9 months old hurt,” Gulley said of his son Kai, who he had to leave when he went to Kosovo. “But my son will understand I did this because I have a higher calling.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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