By JON-PAUL GALEAS/Montana State News
Gunnery Sgt. William Galeas stands amongst a group of his military personnel. He is not aware of his personage, he does not impose his separation, he does not call for pomp.
“I am confident, I am arrogant, I am proud,” the very words being recited from “Old Glory” bring up the memory of his decision to become a Marine.
Galeas is retiring after 25 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Galeas, a native of Ecuador, was 17 years old, a soon to be high school graduate, and working for his father in a factory in Queens in New York City. He excelled in math, wished he could speak English better and wanted to become an architect. His love for the architecture, “the art” of the various buildings in New York brought out his wish to design a building in the city, with the same “beautiful” structure he admires. Galeas was accepted into an architectural school in New York his senior year of high school.
“Honestly I don’t remember the name of the school, I was just happy I got in,” he said. “The thought of going to the school was shut away after I realized I wasn’t going.”
His father explained to him that he was against his pursuit of architectural school because he needed his help at the factory.
“I wanted to leave, I wanted to go to school,” Galeas said. “I wanted to better myself, to excel.”
His father was not going to help him with school if he decided to go. He couldn’t think of any alternatives at the time because they never seemed like an option with his father around. He wanted to get away from home, but he couldn’t admit the reason was to leave his father, even to this day.
“I felt the Marines was a place I could excel, become a better man, tougher, do some good.” After only a few days of thinking it over, Galeas enlisted in The U.S. Marine Corps.
The flag is being meticulously folded up, soldier by soldier, respectfully making sure no creases or wrinkles appear on the flag before being handed off to William Galeas. ‘Old Glory’ is still being played: “I was dirty, battle worn, and tired, but my soldiers cheered me, and I was proud!”
Galeas was only 19 when he was given his own squad to lead and was given a platoon to lead at only 23.
“I remember looking at my platoon at times and realizing that a few of them were older than me, but I had no time or was allowed to be wavered in any way.”
Galeas was part of Marine Recon, meaning they were the first ones to arrive in whatever territory they were ordered to occupy and were the last ones to leave.
“My platoon and I had done a lot of things that I’ve never wanted to bring up. It was hard to keep them down.”
After completing orders through Marine Recon, Galeas was put into a smaller squad and made its leader. The squad’s mission consisted of various private military operations.
“Of course what we did I can’t talk about now, nor will I ever be allowed to.” They were tough. You had to have a tough gut for this work. There’s a reason why there were only 12 of us fit to operate with the needs of the squad.
“But my finest hour comes … when I am torn into strips to be used as a bandage for my wounded comrades on the field of battle,” sounds off as the American Flag is being passed from one Marine to another, slowly, amorously, honoring the flag with each passing, each touch, before finally being walked over by the last Marine.
Galeas dedicated 22 years of his life to the Marine Corps. Toward the end of his military career he was still outperforming other Marines who were half his age.
“These new children coming in couldn’t keep up with me, I could run 10 miles before getting exhausted and they were dead tired before even running one.”
The day came when Galeas could no longer perform his duties at full strength.
“This day was hard, we had to jump out of a helicopter that was hovering high over the water, we had our combat gear strapped to our backs and had to jump out and swim a mile to get to shore, by my second attempt to try and finish it I knew I couldn’t do it anymore.”
Galeas knew it was his time to step away from his duties as part of his private squad. He turned to training incoming Marines for a few years before coming to the conclusion that it was time to step away from the Marine Corps entirely.
“You’re never a retired Marine, you’re always a former Marine.”
“Please accept it, guard it, let it remind you of the many young men and women you have guided and inspired in your years of service.”
Galeas has received the American Flag and admirably secures it. He salutes his fellow Marine for graciously presenting him the flag. He returned home to his family, went back to his job as a regional manager for Wal-Mart Photo Center, and resumed his life.
“It was strange knowing that I wouldn’t be going to base anymore. Toward the end, my constant time at base was shorter and shorter, but I was there. Now there was no more military work to be done.”
Galeas worked at the photo center for a couple of years before being let go and had to find work elsewhere.
“I didn’t go to school. The best skill I had to offer was being a leader, managing men and women. I knew most of what there was to offer in photography but it was never a career; it was a job. I couldn’t and didn’t want to go working at some photography business.”
He found a job driving busses for Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA). He was able to drive the regular commuter buses and the large double-decker buses because of his military vehicle operation training.
“I didn’t enjoy driving the bus. Who would? But I had to do it. It was a job, plain and simple.”
After working for AVTA for two years he found an opening at Edwards Air Force Base to assist with filing data for fighter jets and cargo carriers.
Galeas explored any opportunities for advancement at his new job.
“It was nice to be in an environment that resembled military operating. The job was tough but I would always find a way to learn more, see if there was anyway to do more.”
He took classes offered at the base to assist in the assembly of the engines being designed and tested. His first promotion was to assist in handling and distributing the parts that were used for any engines being tested. When more training was offered for those who wished to move up at Edwards, Galeas immediately signed up for the various training programs, and after a year he was competent in the assembly and designs of the fighter jet engines at Edwards Air Force Base.
“I was always the kind of person to do more, to get smarter in the field I was working in. I was good at math so learning the new math necessary for the engines at Edwards was what I strived for. Hell, to be at the level of mathematical knowledge I have now is proof of how hard work pays off.”
Galeas began studying the aerodynamics of airplane bodies and the electrical systems in cockpits. After covering the fundamentals of flight and stability control, he was required to understand aircraft sensors and electrical components, as well as wing structure and flaps.
He also studied about the power generation for aircrafts, including combustion engine design. After assisting with the assembly of the engines for two years, he was offered an opportunity to be on the design team at Edwards for the Fighter Jets and Cargo planes. Galeas accepted the opportunity and went to the classes necessary and went away for the training needed for someone in a design team. He spent a month off-site at a private facility to learn about the new engines being designed. He participated in lab and design courses for the fighter jets at Edwards. He was required to research into issues ranging from construction materials to wing design.
While completing his assignments, he was responsible for simulating flight and modifying areas where designs may not function well. Galeas had to apply what he learned by altering models, testing designs and preparing class presentations.
“It really was a lot of information to take in. I busted my ass to learn what was being taught. It was a private facility and I was being constantly watched. I kept telling myself I can do this, I know.”
Galeas left the facility with the knowledge to assist in the design of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. He was promptly given a position at Edwards Air Force Base in the design and assembly of the engines for the F-35. After 37 years he wasn’t designing skyscrapers in New York City. William Galeas was designing a Pratt & Whitney F135 engine for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.
“I look back at myself when I was 18 and never thought I would be designing fighter jet engines. Hell, I didn’t even have a thought about what buildings I could be designing. To come back to architecture in a different scope after the Marines is all my years of hard work paying off. You work hard to get what you want, it may have taken me almost 40 years but I’m doing something I have had my mind on since I was a kid and I’m getting paid a lot for it. I’m accomplished and I don’t plan on ever stopping.”
– Edited by Clark Moorman