Guard Soldier Jumps Straight from Basic Training to Elite Army Schools

SPC Connor McGuffee

SPC Connor McGuffee, a Louisiana National Guard Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, outside his Unit’s armory in New Iberia, La. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Garrett Dipuma.)

NEW IBERIA, Louisiana – Army National Guard Specialist (SPC) Connor McGuffee dove headfirst into his military career by completing both the U.S. Army’s Airborne and Ranger schools right after basic training, a feat that took him 13 months to accomplish.

SPC McGuffee, 21, joined the Louisiana Army National Guard so he could earn a degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette before entering the workforce as a full-time Soldier. The Guard offers education benefits to help pay for your tuition and expenses, and, because service is part-time, you can complete your education while you serve.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the Army, but I want to get my degree before I go active,” says SPC McGuffee, 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “The National Guard just looked like a good option since I could go to a physical school full-time and have my tuition covered while still starting my military career.”

He says he was particularly excited at the chance to attend an elite military training course right out of the gate.

“I jumped at the chance to go to Ranger school when it was offered to me,” says SPC McGuffee. “My dad was a Ranger, and I grew up hearing stories from him about his time in the military.”

During basic training, SPC McGuffee and other top-performing Soldiers were offered the chance to attend the course on the condition they maintain the high standards they exhibited.

“My dad was shocked when I wrote home to tell him I was going to Ranger school,” says SPC McGuffee. “I feel really lucky that I was in the right place at the right time to get that opportunity.”

McGuffee says the course was as tough as one would expect, if not harder for somebody who was still new to the military.

“I had just learned the basic concepts the instructors were trying to teach, so being so new was definitely a challenge,” he says. “The hardest part, though, was just constantly failing at what seemed like everything.”

The new Ranger explains that the course is designed that way. Every situation is set up as nearly impossible to complete without error, and one person can fail because of a shortcoming exhibited by another team member. This builds stress, and eventually, Ranger candidates develop excellent critical thinking and communication skills in situations of high stress and fatigue.

“I got recycled once because I let one of my team members fall asleep,” says SPC McGuffee. “But that taught me one of the best lessons I took away from the course; teamwork and discipline are necessary to succeed, and I think that applies in military and civilian life.”

As far as preparing for Ranger school, SPC McGuffee has some straightforward advice for would-be candidates: Go in with a mantra of knowing you will earn the tab and never give up. He says that although the course was not as physically challenging as he thought it would be, it was extremely difficult, even though he was in peak condition from his high school football career and constant workouts leading up to Ranger school.

“During basic, pretty much all of my downtime was committed to extra exercise to prepare. I was working out twice a day running, lifting weights, and doing bodyweight exercises between basic and Ranger school,” says SPC McGuffee. “It’s a hard course that you definitely need to be mentally and physically ready for before you get there.”

Now that he is home, SPC McGuffee enjoys his free time spending time with his family playing Dungeons and Dragons or MechWarrior.

“Basic training and Ranger school were really challenging, but I loved every moment I was there,” says SPC McGuffee. “Those were some of the best times I’ve had in my life, and I can’t see myself wanting to work outside of the military now.”

With positions in more than 130 career fields ranging from Ground Forces, to Technology and Networking, to Intelligence, and Aviation, you can find your perfect fit with the Army National Guard. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more. 

From an original article by Staff Sgt. Garrett Dipuma, Louisiana National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in February 2020.

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Guard Soldier Walks Across Country from Pier to Pier to Help Peers

Specialist (SPC) John Ring doesn’t personally know any fellow service members who’ve died by suicide, but, “I didn’t need to know them. Just the fact that they served our country – that’s a brother or a sister.”

The Georgia Army National Guard Soldier holds veterans’ issues near and dear to his heart. A member of a Veterans’ Military Caucus in Georgia, he’s walking across the country to raise awareness and money for his fellow Soldiers. The funds he raises will benefit Buddy Watch Inc., a non-profit that plans to build a counseling center surrounded by tiny homes for homeless veterans close to Ft. Stewart, Ga.

With a 55-pound rucksack on his back, SPC Ring stepped off Georgia’s Tybee Island Pier on Oct. 1 to embark on a 2,462-mile walk across the nation, which will end at the Santa Monica Pier in California.

SPC John Ring
SPC John Ring serves with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in the Georgia Army National Guard.

His mission is called “Buddy Watch Walk Pier to Pier,” and besides referencing the beginning and ending points of this journey, the name carries another significance.

“The words aren’t spelled the same,” he said, but, one way or another, “peer to peer, we’re all the same, we’re all in this struggle.”

The struggles SPC Ring is referring to are veteran addiction, military sexual trauma, PTSD, homelessness, and suicide. First-hand, SPC Ring, 40, knows what it’s like to battle on and off with a cocaine addiction that he has only recently opened up to family and close friends about. One of the things that has helped him overcome his struggle was planning his trek.

“It’s helped steer my mind to be more focused on helping people,” he said.

If he needed additional motivation, he got it in September when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that between 2008 to 2017, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide each year. That’s 22 veterans a day.

“It really woke me up,” he said. Still, “Talking about veteran suicide is important, but I think we need to spend more time talking about what is leading our veterans to commit suicide rather than the end result.”

When On Your Guard caught up with SPC Ring he was on day 16 and about 175 miles into his journey.

“The support I’m getting is phenomenal. I have not slept in the woods yet,” he said, referring to the offers he’s gotten for lodging, a meal or a simple thank you.

The journey isn’t just about walking, it’s also about talking to everyone he meets along the way. Stories like those from a woman who shared that her nephew, a service member, had recently killed himself, drive SPC Ring to keep going.

SPC John Ring and SGT Jason Zimmerman
Sergeant (SGT) Jason Zimmerman of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (right), joined SPC Ring on part of his walk through Georgia.

“That fuels me,” he said. “That motivates me to push another 10 miles, another 20 miles.”

SPC Ring joined the Georgia Army National Guard six years ago, “right at the cutoff age” of 34, insistent on serving as an 11B Infantryman to carry on a tradition started by his grandfather and great-uncle who served in the infantry in World War II. His great-uncle, who was awarded “two or three Purple Hearts,” he said, was an airborne infantryman who was killed in action in Normandy.

Still recovering from an injury he received three years ago on his civilian job, SPC Ring was planning to leave the Guard at the end of his contract this year, but reconsidered right before he started his trek. His readiness Non-commissioned Officer drove to SPC Ring’s location so he could sign a 1-year extension of his contract on the side of the road.

So far, two of his fellow Guard Soldiers have come out to walk with SPC Ring on part of his journey. He hasn’t had a lot of alone time on the road, but when he does, he reminds himself why he’s on the mission. When he’s at his most tired, “I just start saying the Infantryman’s Creed in my head. It really does help me.”

Originally, SPC Ring had hoped to finish his walk in 80 days, but he has since decided to abandon that timeline.

“It’s a matter of completing the mission,” he said. Even if he gets injured, “I’ll heal, and I’m going to keep going. I’m going to pick up where I left off and I’m going to finish this regardless, no matter what.”

There are stops to make along the way, too – a visit to a VA medical center, a tour of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning, and time set aside to get a tattoo that symbolizes each State he will pass through on his journey. That last tattoo will commemorate what he’s hoping will be a picture-perfect ending to his walk.

“I’ve always wanted to see the sun set on the Santa Monica Pier,” he said. He’s also hoping to write a book about this experience and retrace his cross-country trek by car, stopping to thank the people who’ve shared in his walk, which he’s documenting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his website.

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In part, the Infantryman’s Creed reads, “In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on – through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death.”

It takes a special person to promise to defend the American way of life at any cost. The Army National Guard has been defending each State and the nation for 382 years, making this branch of the U.S. military older than the country itself. If you want to be part of a proud legacy of serving part-time in your community during a crisis like a natural disaster, or protecting your fellow citizens overseas when your country needs you, contact a local recruiter to learn more.

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GI Jon: Guard Soldier’s Journey to Living His Dreams

Ever since he was a child, SPC Jonathan Mullins wanted to be a GI Joe.

“I always wanted to be just like the Soldiers in the movies.”

But sometimes life takes unexpected turns. At 19, SPC Mullins was sitting in a Marine Corps recruitment office, waiting to sign his enlistment papers when he got a call that his wife was expecting their first child.

He put his dream on the back-burner and jumped into his new role as a father, taking care of his wife and first-born daughter.

SPC Jonathan Mullins is an 11B Infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard.

It wasn’t until the day that SPC Mullins’ fates aligned that he knew where he belonged. He was working in construction and didn’t have health benefits when he fell off a roof at work. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt badly.

The same day, he blew a tire and found himself sitting in the parking lot of a Virginia Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention office. Ironically, his wife’s cousin was once a colonel in that office. He took this as a sign that it was time to pursue his dream.  He immediately called the colonel and asked her what he needed to do to enlist.

At that point, SPC Mullins was a 30-year-old homeowner and father of three. Joining the Army National Guard rather than an active duty branch of the armed services would allow him to serve in the military without having to move his family away from home.

“I didn’t want to uproot them because we had everything right here; I didn’t want to take them away from that,” he says.

“The best part about being in the Guard is that you still get to come home.”

Now 32, he’s been able to live out his dream as an 11B Infantryman – but that’s not all he wanted to be. After enlisting, he started applying to law enforcement agencies in the area, landing the other job he’d always wanted:  police officer. For SPC Mullins, having the flexibility to serve part-time and have a civilian career at the same time has been one of the most rewarding benefits of joining the Guard.

There are other perks, too. He’s now able to provide health insurance for him and his family. He’s also using the Guard’s education benefits to work toward a degree in ministry, which will help him when he plans on reclassing as a 56M Chaplain Assistant in the future.

“I’ve worked through the ministry for quite some time, since I was 21,” he says, “and I really feel like that’s where I’m being led.”

SPC Mullins with his wife and three children.

For SPC Mullins, it’s all about making his family proud and being able to do the things he loves. His Guard experience has fulfilled him in ways he never thought possible. He dropped out of high school at a young age, went back to get his GED, and thought he would join the workforce, following wherever the dollar led him.

Now he has a new outlook: “Work hard and don’t give up.”

He reminisces about the strongest piece of advice he’d received from a drill sergeant when things seemed tough in the beginning of his Guard journey:

“If you feel like giving up, you’re only giving 40 percent. You’ve still got 60 percent left to give, so you’ve got to dig deep and give that 60 percent.”

SPC Mullins passes that advice on to others with the hopes of inspiring them to live their truths and pursue their passions.

“If it’s your dream, and it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, pursue it and live that dream.”

If you’re looking for a fulfilling career with benefits like tuition assistance, insurance for you and your family, and the ability to serve part-time in your home State, check out the National Guard job board. With more than 130 careers in fields like aviation, engineering, and transportation, there’s something for everyone in all walks of life. Contact a recruiter today to learn more about how you can join the Army National Guard.

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