Over the years at North Lakes Academy,many alumni have made their marks upon NLA history. One 2011 graduate in particular, Ryan Johnson, has made a huge impact in the lives of many in the NLA community as a student, friend, and coach. Now, he is beginning another important role: soldier. On Wednesday, March 6, Johnson deployed to Fort Bliss, Texas, with the Cambridge-based Minnesota National Guard 850th Horizontal Engineer Company (HEC). There, he will train for and then be deployed on a one-year mission to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Johnson’s fondest NLA memories are those of his basketball career. One such moment was his first sectionals game. He met a lot of great people in the NLA community, especially on the varsity basketball team.
“Johnson was one of the biggest assets the North Lakes Academy basketball team has had,” said head coach Judd Yaeger.
After graduation, Johnson returned as an assistant coach. He has made a huge impact. Most of the upperclassmen have the utmost respect for Johnson, but also consider him a close friend. Brandon Flom (12) has a strong bond with Johnson; before and after daily practices, Flom and Johnson would chat and catch up.
Johnson’s influence on Flom and the rest of the team impacted the group as a whole, particularly freshman players Kyle Spillman and Noah Nei. As freshmen, it’s difficult to transition into the high school setting, especially in sports and athletics. Ryan really brought the two players into the group and engaged them with the program. He encouraged them every step of the way, and never let them get discouraged. It was kind acts of this sort that united the team.
A New Role
As a member of the 850th HEC, Johnson will be involved in construction missions. After spending March and April training for deployment, his company will provide maintenance and do road construction, emplace culverts, haul materials, and perform limited clearing operations in Afghanistan, according to the unit overview published by the Minnesota National Guard. Additionally, the HEC will provide construction training to the Afghan National Army.
Thoughts and prayers are with Johnson and his family for a safe journey and a happy homecoming in Winter 2014.