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Commitment to the Army and soldiers

By Steve Ranson Nevada News Group

Fallon grad rises through the ranks to become the Nevada Army Guard’s chief of staff

During his 25 years in the Army, Fallon’s Col. Michael Peyerl has slowly inched his way up the command ladder.

The 1991 Churchill County High School graduate became the Nevada Army National Guard’s chief of staff in January, a position that serves an adviser to the generals above him and acts as the cohesion between soldiers and the command suite. Peyerl also joins a list of Fallon graduates who became leaders in both the regular Army and National Guard.  Michael Hanifan, Todd Plimpton and Randall Sayre each earned the rank of brigadier general and then became commanders of their respective state’s Army Guard. Only Hanifan has not retired.

For Peyerl, though, the ascension to chief of staff has culminated in years of training and command time. After graduating from the University of Nevada in 1995, he headed to Kentucky where he attended his officer basic course in armor at Fort Knox. Upon graduation, Peyerl spent a year at Camp Casey, South Korea, with the 272nd Armor, and there he returned to Fort Stewart, Ga., where he also assumed a company command. He had the opportunity to return to the West when he became an associate professor of Military Science at the University of San Francisco.

“I left active duty and transferred to the AGR (Active Guard Reserve) program in 2005,” Peyerl said. “I  became part of the Recruiting and Retention officer recruitment.”

It was also an opportunity to return to Nevada where he grew up and attended school.

Peyerl’s attention to detail and desire to serve his fellow soldiers led him to what is called a dual-hat position. Not only did he become a deputy G-1 or assistant personnel officer but also the executive officer of the 422nd Signal Battalion, an assignment that lasted four years and included a deployment to Afghanistan for most of 2011.

“I’m looking back, and it’s almost nine years ago,” he said  of the battalion’s deployment to the Kandahar Airfield, a main NATO base in Afghanistan that became a launching pad for the Global War on Terror.

Prior to its arrival at KAF, the battalion became an Expeditionary Signal Battalion, and according to the Army,  “the (ESB) enables the U.S. Army with uninterrupted mission command and the ability to rapidly deploy and maneuver across the battlefield.” The 422nd ESB with headquarters in Reno and three National Guard companies from Reno, Las Vegas and Casa Grande, Ariz., and two active-duty companies under its wing, became one of the largest Nevada Army National Guard units to deploy to Afghanistan when soldiers arrived in the country in March 2011. Peyerl said the mobilization and then deployment showed the teamwork and camaraderie to achieve that mission.”

“I look at the work we did over there and I look at the team we took … almost 500 soldiers,” he said. “I tell everybody that the team built during that period was to take the citizen soldiers and train and mobilize them for a entire year and compete with any other ESB in the Army inventory. For me I have a lot of passion and a lot of pride for what the team accomplished.”

Peyerl reflected on the 422nd and said the ESB could’ve gone anywhere in the word during that time span.

His next assignment took Peyerl back to state headquarters where he became the full-time HRO or human resources officer for four years. Peyerl, though, wore the two hats again when he, now a lieutenant colonel, assumed a Nevada Army National Command during his final two years with HRO. Peyerl succeeded Lt. Col. Michel Gynn as commander of 1st Squadron, 221st Armor in Las Vegas. After 18 years since attending OBC, Peyerl returned to an armor squadron to command more than 600 soldiers.

“That brought me back to when I was a lieutenant,” Peyerl said of a dream come true. “It was a time of being with soldiers, training with soldiers, being focused for the war fight and taking 600 soldiers and molding them.

Peyerl said he wanted to move his soldiers forward in their proficiency and have them qualify at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Nevada had qualified crews before on the M1 Abrams battle tank but never on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. During Pereyl’s command, a crew from the 221st qualified on the Bradley for the first time.

“This is really about the soldiers,” Peyerl said. “The NCOs  (noncommissioned officer) are the heart of that organization. They really care about the soldiers and squadron and its mission.”

The two years in command of an armor squadron was rewarding for Peyerl.

“Every unit is different, but the camaraderie is cavalry,” he said. “The squadron is very amazing: they do everything together, they train together.”

Peyerl’s love for the military was no accident. Living in Fallon and attending Churchill County schools showed him the meaning of commitment. His family values while growing up correlated to those of the Army’s. It didn’t hurt that he spent much of his youth “hanging out” at Naval Air Station Fallon.

“My dad was a chief at NAS Fallon, and he retired. My mom worked out there as the secretary for the captain (air station commander),” Peyerl recalled. “ I would come out there after school.”

Peyerl said he spent most of his summers on the base and had a love for flying, especially seeing the jets take off and land numerous times at NAS Fallon.

“Actually, I wanted to be a pilot, I wanted to go into the Navy,” he said. “My vision wasn’t great, so I didn’t qualify.”

So, Peyerl fell back on a devising a different path to receive his education and earn a ticket to serve in the military. He looked at the military academies but decided to go into the Army because he felt a connection.

“Everything fell into place, and I chose to accept an ROTC scholarship,”  Peyerl said. “I went to Gonzaga (University) for a year but came back and did three-and-a-half years at the University of Nevada, Reno. I knew I wanted to go into combat arms.”

Peyerl said he applied to the academies, but the only one who offered him an appointment was the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

During his quarter-century of service, Peyerl said his high-school sweetheart, Andrea (née Ellington), has been very supportive. During his active duty, she accompanied him to Fort Stewart, where they lived in Hinesville, and then to San Francisco. With Peyerl serving in Carson City, Andrea worked for the Washoe Cunty School District in a development delay program to help youngsters entering kindergarten. With the coronavirus pandemic, Peyerl said Andrea decided not to return in the fall and reassess after the semester. She currently works part-time for a private company in Reno, the city they have called home since 2009.

They have a 16-year-old son, Austin, who attends Truckee Meadows Community College’s high school program where he’s earning dual credit. Peyerl said his son has shown an interest with the military, but it’s his decision to pursuit that path.

“He has plenty of time to figure it out,” Peyerl said.

Since the mid-1990s, Peyerl said he’s motivated by serving in something bigger than the individual. His commitment is with an organization such as the U.S. Army and his second objective is protecting the United States for what it stands: freedoms and liberties. During the last year, Peyerl said the challenges have existed from the Nevada National Guard battling COVID-19 to ensuring protests are kept in check. He said the sacrifices of time and being away from family have been hard, but he says serving his country has been worth it.

“I wake up every morning and ask myself if I’ve given everything I had to this organization,” he said,” but not everything to the organization but to the soldiers I serve every day.”