CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
He's a Marine reservist by day, a crime fighter by night, and he does everything he can to protect the people of New York City. And now he's doing the same in Afghanistan.
Cpl. Ryan F. O'Leary, data network specialist for G-6, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), works as a police officer for the New York Police Department during his time as a Marine reservist for the 6th Communications Battalion of Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I've been a police officer for two years in South Jamaica, 103rd precinct, New York City," said O'Leary, 28, from Sayville, N.Y. "It's one of the busiest precincts in New York City."
To become a police officer, there's a long process that people must go through, O'Leary explained. If they don't pass any one of these steps, then they are kicked out of the police academy. In order to sign up, applicants need to have at least 60 college credits, or two years of active duty military service. Then, they must pass a written exam and go through a physical agility test, which is similar to a Marine Corps obstacle course. After that, they take a written psychological test and then sit down with a psychologist. Once they have passed everything, they'll go through a background investigation.
"Since I have a secret clearance with the military, the process went very quickly for me," said O'Leary. "The people that investigate you, they like military guys because we're very disciplined and we're on time; we take pride in ourselves."
Because of his military background, the academy made O'Leary the company sergeant, who is in charge of 40 police academy recruits. The recruits come to him for everything, and he works as a liaison between them and the instructors, similar to a platoon sergeant.
"It works both ways, my training with the police department also helps me out with the Marine Corps," O'Leary said. "We trained with the M-4 a lot. I feel that I'm more aware of my surroundings and a lot more observant now that I'm a cop, probably the little things that most normal people don't notice. I'm always looking at people's hands and things like that, making sure they won't hurt me."
Growing up in a family of police officers and military members, O'Leary followed the family footstep by joining the Marine Corps as a data network specialist. He knew early on that he wanted to be a police officer.
"I never saw myself sitting behind a desk, so I wanted to do something different. I've always knew that I wanted to become a police officer," O'Leary said. "I don't really consider it work; it's very fun for me, and I enjoy the excitement."
At the 103rd precinct, people call them the "Queens Marines" because a lot of Marines work there, O'Leary said. They wear an eagle, globe and anchor under their badge to show camaraderie. They take pride in the things they do, he said. O'Leary remembers his first arrest as if it has just happened yesterday.
"It was my second day at work, I was on a foot patrol," O'Leary said. "My partner and I saw someone was trying to rob a high school kid for a cell phone. It was a foot pursuit; we chased him for about three blocks and caught him."
Being a Marine and a police officer, it tends to take a toll on his family life, as O'Leary doesn't get to see his wife very often, he said, especially when his shift is from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. It's the busiest shift because that's when the majority of crimes occur, he said.
"Being away from the family, especially on a deployment, it's tough on everyone's family," O'Leary said. "My wife, she doesn't like it, but we were married from my first deployment in 2007, so she's used to it. She knew before we got married that this was my life, so she accepts it."
O'Leary is on military leave of absence with the NYPD so he could deploy with CLR-17, 1st MLG (FWD). Once his tour here is over, he plans to return to New York where he'll continue to do what he does best: protect the people as a police officer, but first and foremost, as a Marine.