Guard Snapshot: Illinois

At the 2014 U.S. Army Small Arms Championships at Fort Benning, Ga., in late January, one Illinois Army National Guard Soldier was intent on making history.

And that he did.

Col. Robert Choppa, Chief of Infantry and Commandant for the U.S. Army Infantry School, awards Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Landon of Creal Springs, Ill., with the 3637th Maintenance Company in Springfield, Ill., the Distinguished Rifleman Badge after the 2014 U.S. Army Small Arms Championships at Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 1.

Col. Robert Choppa, Chief of Infantry and Commandant for the U.S. Army Infantry School, awards Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Landon of Creal Springs, Ill., with the 3637th Maintenance Company in Springfield, Ill., the Distinguished Rifleman Badge after the 2014 U.S. Army Small Arms Championships at Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 1.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Landon earned a Distinguished Rifleman Badge, making him one of only about 3,300 to receive the badge since its inception in 1959.

“It’s exciting to receive the badge because only so many have gotten it,” he said. “It was a goal I set and achieved.”

During the competition, Landon accumulated the last six of 30 leg points needed to reach distinguished status. Leg points are awarded based on an individual’s placement among the top 10 percent of competitors in an authorized match. Leg points accumulate throughout a competitor’s lifetime until distinguished status is attained; however, Landon reached his points in just three years.

A member of the 3637th Maintenance Company, he was one of six Illinois National Guard Soldiers who travelled to Georgia to compete against 200 other Soldiers from across the Nation. The event is considered to be the Army’s premier marksmanship training event.

“This is the ultimate train the trainer event,” said Lt. Col. Don A. King Jr., the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit commander at Fort Benning. “Our primary focus is to reach out and show capabilities to take back and share with your Soldiers.”

The U.S. Army Small Arms Championships at Fort Benning, Ga., featured various competitions to test the Soldiers’ shooting proficiency.

The U.S. Army Small Arms Championships at Fort Benning, Ga., featured various competitions to test the Soldiers’ shooting proficiency.

The advanced combat, live-fire competition consisted of various matches to test the Soldiers’ shooting proficiency. A multi-gun match tested their ability to transition between a rifle and pistol while engaging various targets at different distances. More challenging matches required a mile and a half run in full combat gear before engaging targets.

In addition to Landon, the Illinois team consisted of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Gibbs with Company B, 634th Brigade Support Battalion; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle Gleason with the 3625th Maintenance Company; Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Mix with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; Sgt. Jeffrey Buggar with the 1844th Transportation Company; and Spc. Joseph Miller with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 232nd Combat Support and Sustainment Battalion.

“Our main focus was to gain experience and bring back new trends and techniques that can be passed on to Illinois Soldiers,” said Gibbs. “We hope to enhance the State-level competition and improve weapons qualifications down to the company level.”

If you’re interested in learning what it takes to become a marksman for the Army National Guard, visit our jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.

Original article and photo courtesy of the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office.

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21 and Loving All His Options in the Guard

SPC Jonathan Schmidt

SPC Jonathan Schmidt

At age 21, Specialist Jonathan Schmidt has already pursued three different career fields and served in Afghanistan. The North Dakota native started his Army National Guard career in horizontal construction engineering, moved to combat engineering, and is now about to train to be a Recruiter.

Of course, this multi-talented, rapid-fire career trajectory is what you might expect from a guy who got his first job at age 14 and really enjoys a challenge.

But the path to success wasn’t always clear-cut for this Soldier. SPC Schmidt believes he could have gone down a “dark path” after a few brushes with the law in his youth, or turned into “that guy who stays at home and becomes a bum.”

But then he saw what the Reserve Component had done for his older brother, with whom he’d always competed.

“I wanted that camaraderie and those friendships, too,” he said. “The Guard made me believe there was something more out there.”

SPC Schmidt’s first choice of a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was a natural for a young man who grew up in the Great Plains around a lot of farmland and oilfields.

MOS 12N Horizontal Construction Engineer teaches Soldiers to use heavy machinery to excavate land, level earth for construction projects, and clear out debris. Or, as SPC Schmidt says, “dirt moving and ’dozers. It’s the perfect job skill to bring back to the civilian world.”

These skills came in quite handy in his home state, especially in 2011, when much of North Dakota had been declared a disaster area due to severe flooding of the Missouri and Red rivers.

SPC Schmidt and the rest of 815th Engineer Company went from one town to the next building dikes and filling sandbags.

After those challenges were met, he was asked by a friend and fellow Soldier to volunteer for a deployment in Afghanistan. That meant training for something a little different – MOS 12B Combat Engineer – Construction and Engineering Specialist – in other words, learning how to make obstacles for the enemy, from installing concertina wire to blowing up bridges.

At the same time this change in occupations was occurring in 2012, another opportunity had presented itself. Because the Guard offers money for college, SPC Schmidt, who grew up cooking with his grandmother, had previously applied to a culinary school and found out he’d been accepted. But having already made the commitment to go to Afghanistan with the 815th, he turned it down.

There are culinary MOSs available in the Guard, but SPC Schmidt says if he was going to be deployed, he wanted to be on the front lines rather than in the kitchen.

“I always knew I wanted to deploy. It feels like my duty to do something for my country.”

Now that he’s back in the States, SPC Schmidt is switching gears yet again and is moving into recruiting.

“I always had the gift to talk to people, and I wanted to do something with my talent.”

As a Recruiter, SPC Schmidt will be helping new recruits decide what their MOSs will be. But that doesn’t mean his career trajectory is headed for a permanent plateau.  He loves that there’s a “whole list” of MOSs to choose from and thinks about joining the Special Forces one day.

If you want to see the “whole list” of job opportunities available in the Guard, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today (perhaps even SPC Schmidt when he finishes his training — if you happen to be in North Dakota, that is).

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Guard Snapshot: Arizona

From time to time this year, On Your Guard will take a look at what’s happening in the Guard across the Nation. A snapshot, if you will, of the Army National Guard skillsets being honed and important community service missions being deployed State to State.

Here’s what was going on in Arizona earlier this month …

 

AZ Soldiers, U.S. CBP unite to secure border hot spot

Army Staff Sgts. Joaquin Lopez, left, and Ruben Cruz, assigned to the Arizona Army National Guard’s 2220th Transportation Company, offload concrete barriers in Naco, Ariz., near the Arizona-Mexico border, March 1. The Soldiers partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deliver the barriers from El Centro, Calif., as a way to accomplish training on convoy operations while supporting CBP efforts along the border. (Photo by Capt. Janek Kaslikowski, U.S. Army National Guard)

Army Staff Sgts. Joaquin Lopez, left, and Ruben Cruz, assigned to the Arizona Army National Guard’s 2220th Transportation Company, offload concrete barriers in Naco, Ariz., near the Arizona-Mexico border, March 1. The Soldiers partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deliver the barriers from El Centro, Calif., as a way to accomplish training on convoy operations while supporting CBP efforts along the border. (Photo by Capt. Janek Kaslikowski, U.S. Army National Guard)

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Arizona Army National Guard’s 2220th Transportation Company has been working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reinforce areas along the Arizona-Mexico border. The light-medium truck company moved 193 tons of concrete barriers from El Centro, Calif., to Naco, Ariz., recently to fortify a porous section of the State’s border.

Army Guard and customs officials called the convoy operation a success and said it was a model for future inter-agency coordination.

“We’ve been working on a solution for getting that border infrastructure into place in Naco for quite some time,” said Manuel Padila, Jr., the chief patrol agent for the CBP’s Tucson sector. “When the Guard saw this as a training opportunity it became a win-win situation for everyone. This certainly highlights the long-standing partnership we’ve had with the Guard and it points to new ways we can work together.”

Where once a fence line was the only impediment for those in vehicles looking to illegally breach the border at Naco, now a robust barricade hampers entry attempts.

In all, the Guard delivered 115 cement blocks — 15 more than originally requested by CBP. In a matter of days, 52 Arizona Guard members used 26 vehicles to transport the load more than 400 miles.

“We used every section in the company to support the mission,” said Army Capt. Janek Kaslikowski, the company commander. “We have an operations section that planned the mission — estimated fuel, rest stops, and driver changes — and a maintenance section that kept us running. Our Soldiers received invaluable experience with securing a load, off-loading, vehicle recovery, and the importance of preventive maintenance checks and services.”

According to Kaslikowski, the mission was the perfect vehicle for bridging the gaps in experience between his junior Soldiers and his combat-tested senior non-commissioned officers.

“It was interesting to see them work together on this mission because this is exactly what we would do in theater,” he said. “The NCOs led this mission and gave the junior Soldiers plenty of opportunity to gain experience that they may not get without deploying.”

“We paired experienced drivers with inexperienced drivers,” said Army 2nd Lt. Sha-raya Harris, a platoon leader in the company. “I was one of the inexperienced drivers.”

“Some of the most junior motor transport operators in the company had only 10 minutes behind the wheel from initial training,” said Harris. “Now they all have seven-to-eight hours of experience negotiating turns, hills, and stops with 16 tons in tow.”

“It was great training, but I think this mission was equally important for building relationships,” said Harris. “Everywhere we went people supported us. Border protection employees, the ranchers in Naco, even other drivers on the Interstate — everyone found this mission interesting and wanted to help us along the way.”

Article and photo courtesy of the National Guard Bureau’s news archive; original article written by AF Maj. Gabe Johnson, Arizona National Guard Public Affairs

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