Robert (Bob) Morrill joined the military when he was 18 years old because he knew he was not ready for college; however, he did not expect to serve for the next 30 years.
“I was talked into joining by a couple of buddies of mine,” Morrill said. “They wanted to be infantrymen and I said ‘No, not me.’ I wanted to be a big diesel engine mechanic.”
When the Bakersfield, California, native visited the military entrance processing station, the recruiter told him his requested career field had an extensive waitlist. He offered Morrill turbine engine repairman instead and, after learning he would be repairing helicopter engines instead of diesel trucks, Morrill said, “Well, that’s cool. I’ll take it.”
In 1980 Pvt. Morrill reported for b
asic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by advanced individual training at Fort Eustis, Virginia. While stationed in Germany for his first duty assignment, he met his mentor – an aviation maintenance technician warrant officer.
“I really looked up to this guy,” Morrill said. “So I asked him, ‘What do I need to do to become one of you one day?’ He said, ‘Do everything in Army aviation maintenance.’ So, for nine years, I did everything there was in Army aviation maintenance. I was a crew chief, I was an engine mechanic, I was a phase team member, I was a production control [noncommissioned officer], I was a tech supply NCO — I did all of those things. And in 1989, I applied to be a warrant officer and I was selected.”
Aviation maintenance technicians are responsible for managing personnel, supplies, equipment, and facility assets to maintain and repair Army rotary, fixed-wing and unmanned aerial systems. They organize maintenance elements to inspect, service, test, disassemble, repair, reassemble, adjust, replace parts and retest aircraft or aircraft components.
“Our job was to run maintenance operations in every Army formation, and that’s what I did for 20 years,” Morrill said. “There is one aviation maintenance technician per battalion in the Army. So there may be 200 pilots in a battalion, but there’s only one of me.”
Morrill deployed twice throughout his career — to Bosnia in 1995 as part of the peacekeeping force, and then to Iraq in 2008 on an individual deployment out of the U.S. Army Forces Command headquarters.
In addition to FORSCOM headquarters, he also spent time in Korea; Fort Ord, California; and Fort Hood, Texas. However, his favorite duty assignment was Germany, where he served on active duty for 14 years and met his wife while on a mission trip to Romania.
Morrill retired in 2010 and returned to Germany in 2012 as a Department of the Army civilian. He led the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command overseas operations for six and half years there before moving back to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, in 2018 to work in the AMCOM Logistics Center Aviation Field Maintenance Directorate.
Earlier this year Morrill assumed the role of regional aviation sustainment manager - west region.
Looking back, he said he would not do anything different — from Pvt. Morrill in 1980 to Chief Warrant Officer Five Morrill in 2010 — he described his military career as “blessed” and he recommends all young people consider joining the military.
“Whether you make it a career or not, when you're done, you will appreciate whatever time you served,” he said. “I was a high school dropout working as an automotive machinist. I was rebuilding car engines for a company and I enjoyed it, but of course I was wondering what to do for the rest of my life. I knew I wanted to be a mechanic, and I also knew I wasn’t going to college, so the military wasn’t a bad deal. The Army gave me the opportunity to learn a skill, as well as learn to appreciate people and serve my country simultaneously.”