Ryan D. Cantrell was born in Louisville, Kentucky and raised in Goshen, Kentucky and Macon, Georgia. He enlisted in January 1998 and underwent training at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Mike Company, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. In May 1998, Private Cantrell completed Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina.
He was ordered to Basic Landing Support Specialist School in Courthouse Bay, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he earned the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 0481, Landing Support Specialist.
In July 1998, Private First Class Cantrell was ordered to 2d Landing Support Battalion, 2d FSSG, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where he served as a Landing Support Specialist. During his time he deployed to Battle Griffin 99 from January 1999 to March 1999. He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on March 1, 1999.
Lance Corporal Cantrell was sent to MEU Service Support Group-24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from June 1999 to October 2001. During this time, he deployed twice with the 24th MEU to the Mediterranean and was promoted to Corporal on December 1, 2000. Shortly after returning from deployment, Corporal Cantrell ended his active service in January 2002. In June 2002, Corporal Cantrell reenlisted in the Marine Corps. In May 2003, he reported to 8th Communication Battalion, II MEF Headquarters Group, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and was promoted to Sergeant on March 1, 2004. Shortly after being promoted, Sergeant Cantrell attended Ground Communication Organization Repair Course at Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School, earning the MOS of 2844. After returning from MOS school, Sergeant Cantrell deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 2005 to August 2005. In February 2006, he attended Sergeants Course at Camp Geiger, North Carolina.
May 2006, Sergeant Cantrell was assigned to Detachment 1, H&S Co, 4th Tank Battalion, Hialeah Florida for duty as a Communications Maintenance Chief on the Inspector-Instructor staff and was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant in January 2008. March 2008, Staff Sergeant Cantrell reported to Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School for the Advanced Electronics Course and Radio Repair Technician course. After completing the Radio Repair Technician course, he earned the MOS 2862, Radio Repair Technician. December 2008, Staff Sergeant Cantrell was transferred to G-6, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia. While assigned to Material Logistics Branch, Staff Sergeant Cantrell served as the Communications Maintenance Shop Chief. During this time, he attended Career Course 4-11 at Quantico, Virginia.
August 2011, Staff Sergeant Cantrell was transferred to Company D, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion, Twentynine Palms, California. While assigned to Company D, he was assigned the billet of Communications Maintenance Chief as well as the Maintenance Platoon Sergeant. During this tour, Staff Sergeant Cantrell deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from October 2012 to April 2013. He was promoted to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant on September 1, 2013. June 2014, Gunnery Sergeant Cantrell was transferred to Company A, Air Control Training Squadron, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School. During this time, he was assigned as the Basic Electronics Course Assistant Chief Instructor, and later assigned as the Company Gunnery Sergeant and filled the billet of Company First Sergeant during significant periods of absence of a First Sergeant. He was frocked to the rank of First Sergeant on January 4,2017.
January 2017, First Sergeant Cantrell was transferred to Company B, Communication Training Battalion, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School where he served as the Company First Sergeant. During this time First Sergeant Cantrell attended the First Sergeant Course in February 2017 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. July 2017, First Sergeant Cantrell was transferred to 2d Intelligence Battalion, Camp Lejeune , and was assigned as the Company First Sergeant for Battlespace Surveillance Company. In March of 2018, First Sergeant Cantrell took over Direct Support Company. During this time, he attended the E8 1stSt/MSgt Seminar at the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Camp Lejeune. On 1 March 2019, First Sergeant Cantrell assumed the duties as Headquarters and Service Company First Sergeant. April 2019, First Sergeant Cantrell received orders to 2d Reconnaissance Battalion, 2d Marine Division, and was assigned as the Headquarters and Service Company First Sergeant. While in H&S Company, First Sergeant Cantrell participated in Marine Warfighting Exercise (MWX) 1-20 in Twentynine Palms, CA as the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Reconnaissance Detachment. In February 2020, First Sergeant Cantrell took over Alpha Company, just prior to the start of the company's pre-deployment training plan, preparing the company for a deployment with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). In February 2021 as the company prepared to depart for the final MEU exercise and subsequent deployment, First Sergeant Cantrell transitioned to Bravo Company. Also during the month of February 2021, First Sergeant Cantrell attended and graduated the Army Basic Airborne School. April 2021, Sergeant Major Cantrell received orders to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, where he currently serves as the Battalion Sergeant Major.
His personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with one gold star in lieu of second award and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with three gold stars in lieu of a fourth award.