Local "Citizen Soldier" Eran Harrill
Eran Harrill, an Oklahoma City resident, balances many hats and roles in his life, and being in the National Guard is just one of them. Harrill is currently deployed to the Ukraine, and has also been on deployments to Afghanistan and Germany. Harrill joined the National Guard in 2008, after taking 3 years of Senior ROTC in college.
“Being in the military was something that I had wanted to do since I was a child. I have always felt patriotic and wanted to serve my country but also wanted to experience the bond and brotherhood that I had always read about and seen in documentaries growing up. As I have gotten older, my reasons for staying have changed,” explained Harrill. “As a leader, being there for the younger soldiers and being an example for my children are drivers of staying in uniform.”
Harrill is the youngest child of a family of 3, raised by a single mother after his parents divorced when he was a year old. He originally came from Sacramento, California. Harrill was homeschooled before enrolling into the Oklahoma City Public school system during his sophomore year of high school, graduating from John Marshall in 2001. When not on deployment, Harrill resides in Oklahoma City. He is a divorced father of 6 daughters, including 2 sets of twins.
“I am divorced but maintain a great relationship with my ex who is now remarried. I think being a father, a soldier, and a servant in the community have each helped me become better at the other. I am consistently being challenged and taught something new in each of those roles that help shape the way that I deal with the pros and cons that come with the titles,” said Harrill.
Harrill produced a film called “Citizen Solider” which came out in theaters in the fall of 2016. It highlights the Oklahoma National Guard and his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011-2012. The film won the Chairman’s Award at the San Diego International Film Festival in 2016, and also had a NASCAR race renamed in its honor. The summary of the movie taken from the IMBD website says, “CITIZEN SOLDIER is a dramatic feature film, told from the point of view of a group of Soldiers in the Oklahoma Army National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, known since World War II as the "Thunderbirds." Set in one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan at the height of the surge, it is a heart-pounding, heartfelt grunts' eye-view of the war. A modern day Band of Brothers, Citizen Soldier tells the true story of a group of Soldiers and their life-changing tour of duty in Afghanistan, offering an excruciatingly personal look into modern warfare, brotherhood, and patriotism. Using real footage from multiple cameras, including helmet cams, these Citizen Soldiers give the audience an intimate view into the chaos and horrors of combat and, in the process, display their bravery and valor under the most hellish of conditions.”
Harrill says the thing that is extremely important to him, is having an open discussion about the balance of being deployed and then coming back home and having to immediately get back into civilian life. He also said that his film truly shows what it’s like to be a National Guard Solider in the 21st Century. Harrill is also quick to point out that he’s not unique in the fact that he has sacrificed time away from his family and career to serve his country overseas, and wants to recognize all of those who have felt led to join the National Guard. Many other Oklahomans just like Harrill have made many sacrifices to serve their country, including things like giving up school, losing jobs, not being present for the birth of their child or missing important funerals for people they love. Those are all real situations that many have faced with deployment.
“Long gone are the days that only active duty deploys and is in the fight. Washington is increasingly using the National Guard to conduct some of its most critical missions and Oklahoma is the number one state on its radar. As a state, we lead the country in numbers of deployments, spanning all the way back to World War II. With this deployment to Ukraine in 2017, followed by major deployments to Afghanistan in 2018, there is no sign of that slowing down,” said Harrill. “The film speaks for all of this and honors the men and women Oklahoma lost in Afghanistan, and all 803 National Guard men and women from all 50 states who have died in combat. It is the first time in history that such a list was compiled.”
Harrill is a combat squad leader in control of two combat teams, but says the mission in Ukraine is very different than his usual positions in the National Guard. He is currently the Operations NCO (non-cmissioned officer) in charge of Staff/Simulation training for the Ukrainian army. He works with the battalion staff to help implement NATO military doctrine into how they approach developing mission orders and tactics.
“It is a critical time for the country with everything that is happening around them and regardless where one stands politically on the issue, the fact that Ukraine has a military in need of mentoring cannot be disputed. We help mentor along with five other countries, so it is truly a multinational effort which makes the deployment a very unique experience,” explained Harrill.
Harrill also maintains a civilian career when he is not deployed. He first started working with the Black Chamber of Commerce after coming back from his deployment in 2012. At that time he helped them with marketing from a different perspective, and was working for a different company at that time. In 2013 he was voted onto the board and in 2015 he took over as President and CEO of the organization.
“Being deployed has been a challenging time, but I am ready to get back and hit the ground running to support the community and city. It gives me an opportunity to serve an often ignored voice on everything from economic development and education to legislation and small business reform, while supporting young professionals and promoting community engagement. An opportunity I do not take lightly,” Harrill says of his position with the chamber.
From his dedication and services with the National Guard, to his filmmaking venture to help honor all of the men and women in the Oklahoma National Guard, to his service and work for his community with the Black Chamber of Commerce, Harrill is one of Oklahoma’s hometown heros for sure.