Drive + Determination = Serving Above and Beyond

SSG Danielle GorieSSG Danielle Gorie

At 8 years old, Danielle Gorie watched with wide eyes as Army National Guard Soldiers rolled into her Hurricane Andrew-ravaged town near Miami. They were there to hand out food and supplies, as well as protect the community from looting.

“It left an imprint on me,” she says about those difficult days in ’92.

Fast-forward three years and we arrive at the next important event to shape the decisions young Gorie would make for her own future. Her Naval pilot brother, Dominic, who was 20+ years her senior, got a call from NASA informing him that he was selected to be an astronaut candidate. Throughout middle school and high school, she looked on as her brother piloted several Space Shuttle missions.

By the end of her junior year, Gorie knew exactly what she wanted to do.

“I had this superstar older brother, and I wanted to make my dad proud, too,” she says. “I enlisted in the National Guard on July 31, 2001. I just had to wait until I turned 18 to do my training.”

Of course, while she was waiting, four hijacked airliners crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pa.

“I watched the Twin Towers on television and just thought, ‘Wow.’”

Yet the events unfolding around her did not derail Gorie’s drive and determination: She was going to make her own mark by serving her community and her country in the Guard.

And that’s exactly what she’s done throughout her 12-year military career. Only when you’re motivated by such drive and determination, the word “serving” needs to be followed by “above and beyond.”

On Deployment

After Basic Combat Training, she completed Advanced Individual Training (AIT) as a 42A Human Resource Specialist and deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 with a Military Police unit out of Florida. But just a few days after their arrival, they lost several Soldiers in a vehicle accident. So Gorie volunteered for regular shifts driving one of the MP Humvees that patrolled Kabul. She also volunteered a couple of times each week to cover the night shift in one of the compound’s guard towers.

“I just felt like I was serving more of a purpose that way.”

Back in the States

Eight years later, Gorie – now Staff Sergeant Gorie – is still volunteering.

After returning to the States, she sought full-time Guard employment, first as a Recruiter Assistant and later as a Recruiter. Her outstanding work earned her a promotion in 2011 to become the Advertising and Marketing Non-Commissioned Officer (MNCO) for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion for the State of Florida.

MNCO duties can be exhaustive, from coordinating events to managing ad campaigns and budgets to running social media properties and more. But when SSG Gorie’s battalion commander sent out a special request via email this past spring, she was the only one who answered the call.

First Ever in Florida

The National Guard was first authorized drill instructor specialties back in 2008, yet no female Soldiers in Florida had ever accepted the grueling challenge of becoming a Drill Sergeant. Until now, that is.

SSG Gorie packed her bags in April and headed to 9 weeks of drill instructor training at Fort Jackson, S.C., with 88 other candidates from across the Nation.

“It was like Basic Training all over again. You get treated like a private, despite your current rank. It teaches you how to be a Drill Sergeant.”

She arrived on a Wednesday, and at 3 a.m. on Thursday reported for an Army Physical Fitness Test – the first of many training activities that would narrow the field down to a final graduating class of 60.

“Many couldn’t pass and went home on the first day.”

After that, SSG Gorie was up at 4:15 every morning and down at formation at 5 a.m. for 90 minutes of physical training, followed by a shower and breakfast. Either classroom or field training filled the rest of the day’s official learning activities until dinner chow, but the day was in no way over.

“After dinner is when you studied MOIs (Memorandum of Instruction). Each week you had to memorize several MOIs – some weeks there were eight of them. And then they would draw a card for one MOI and you’d have to pitch it verbatim. If you didn’t make it, you had to do it again at 4 a.m. the next day. If you failed a second time, you went home. It was the biggest disqualifier for the class.”

She had to re-pitch twice, but did so successfully and graduated on her 30th birthday in June.

Gorie now reports one weekend a month as Drill Sergeant for Florida’s Recruit Sustainment Program, which prepares recruits for Basic Combat Training in the months before they are scheduled to go. They learn basic Soldiering skills, physical training, map skills, and more.

“It makes Basic a lot easier and they have an absolute edge. Most get ID’d as squad leaders.”

Another First for the Future?

So, does SSG Gorie’s new role fulfill her drive and determination to make her mark in the Guard?

Yes – and no.

“I want to be Sergeant Major one day. We’ve never had a female Sergeant Major in our battalion, so I’m setting my sights toward that next.”

If you want to make your mark in the Guard like SSG Gorie, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.

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Taking It to a Higher Level

PFC Ray Birch

PFC Ray Birch

Tipping the scales at nearly 300 pounds in high school, Private First Class (PFC) Ray Birch says military service was the last thing on his mind. His father was a retired Marine, and military service ran in his family, but when he graduated from high school his physical condition was not in his favor.

His attitude was a totally different story.

The young man – who would eventually serve the State of North Carolina as a Military Police Officer in the Army National Guard – became an avid volunteer in his hometown of Havelock, NC. He served the Parks and Recreation Department doing just about anything they asked, which included organizing logistics for events, driving VIPs, and even dressing up as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to entertain the kids.

PFC Birch says he was eager to serve in whatever way he could, so the town gladly accepted his volunteer work on two additional boards, which gave him the opportunity to establish greenways and other nature preservation efforts throughout town.

While his love of community service was growing, his health was still at risk. After a frightening visit to the doctor and a reminder of the diabetes that affected some family members, PFC Birch decided enough was enough. The weight was coming off.

Through a disciplined diet and lots of exercise, he shed 120 pounds. It wasn’t easy, but PFC Birch wasn’t going to let any obstacle stand in his way.

“I haven’t had a Big Mac, Whopper or soda in seven years,” he says.

As the weight started to come off, the doors to his future swung wide open.

He attended classes in manufacturing technology and started a career as a machinist. While he had established a way to earn a paycheck, his heart was still tied to serving the community. The National Guard, he says, was as an opportunity to take his commitment to community to an entirely new level.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve North Carolina,” he says. “This is where I was born and it’s an honor for me to do what I do.”

When it came time to choose a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), PFC Birch remembered that his uncle was a retired Army Military Police Officer (MP), and he thought the values embodied by the position would fit his own values perfectly.

As it turned out, he was right. The MP motto is “to assist, protect, and defend.”

“Being the police of the military, I can help other Soldiers live the military values and show them how to do it,” he says. “And I can assist our community and protect fellow citizens when they are in a time of need.  I’m still a volunteer at heart. The MP fits that.”

The police methods and skills he learned through the National Guard led to a position as a security officer at a local hospital, so PFC Birch now keeps things under control on duty and off. Plus, he continues to serve his hometown through volunteer work.

His transformation from overweight high school kid to a fit, strong National Guard Soldier, security officer, and community volunteer has opened his eyes to his own potential and what he can do in the future.

“I believe in the military values: never accept defeat, never quit, and never say you can’t. I lived those [ideals] before I joined the Guard and the Guard has taken them to a higher level.”

Right now he’s thinking about his options, which include making the National Guard a full-time career, or sticking to part-time Guard service with a civilian career. He says he can see himself going back to school to get his bachelor’s degree, moving on to become a State trooper, and possibly even running for State senate.

“I love this State. I put my heart and soul into this State. My ultimate goal is to serve North Carolina, to try to make the world a better place.”

If you’d like to see a whole new perspective on what you can accomplish, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.

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