Meet the First Enlisted Female Guard Soldiers to Graduate Army Ranger School

FORT BENNING, Ga. – Two Soldiers from the South Carolina and Pennsylvania Army National Guard are the first enlisted National Guard females to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Jessica Smiley, a South Carolina Army National Guard military police non-commissioned officer serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Sergeant (SGT) Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania Army National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, completed the mentally and physically challenging school at Fort Benning on Dec. 13. The school prepares Soldiers to be better trained, more capable and more resilient leaders.

“My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have a regret or look back and say, ‘I should have pushed harder, or I should have done something different,’” says SSG Smiley. “My mindset today is that I did just that. I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am.”


SGT Danielle Farber of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and SSG Jessica Smiley of the South Carolina Army National Guard became the first enlisted National Guard female Soldiers to graduate U.S. Army Ranger School. (Photo by SGT Brian Calhoun.)

As the first female National Guard enlisted Soldiers to graduate from the school, SSG Smiley and SGT Farber join a small group of women who have earned a Ranger tab since the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat arms positions.

The others are: U.S. Army Captain (CPT) Kristen Griest and U.S. Army First Lieutenant (1LT) Shaye Haver, who, in 2015, became the first women to ever complete the school; 1LT Emily Lilly, who was the first female Army National Guard officer to graduate in 2018; and U.S. Army SSG Amanda Kelley, the first enlisted Soldier to graduate, also in 2018. However, SSG Smiley and SGT Farber do not think Ranger school is an accomplishment only they are capable of achieving.

“I don’t think it’s charting a course for other women because it’s something that we all have in us. We just haven’t been allowed to do it … There’s many women out there who are completely capable of doing it,” says SSG Smiley. “Do it … put in the hard work, put in the dedication to accomplish the goal.”

SSG Smiley and SGT Farber say the accomplishment took years of training and did not come without setbacks. SGT Farber has been working toward this goal since 2016 when she first tried for the Pennsylvania Ranger/Sapper State assessment program and was not selected. She tried again in 2018 and was selected, with approximately 10 other Soldiers. A year later, she left for Ranger school.

“Train hard for it,” says SGT Farber. “Come into it knowing you’re going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do. Don’t come through here and expect any sort of special treatment because it won’t happen.”

Now that they have earned their Ranger tabs, SSG Smiley and SGT Farber hope to use the skills they’ve gained and help the Soldiers they work with and lead.

“This day to me is not the end of the school, but is the beginning of the new chapter in my career, not only for myself but for future Soldiers,” says SSG Smiley.

U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Russ Vickery says he is proud of what SSG Smiley and SGT Farber achieved.

“It is a big deal to be the first enlisted females in the National Guard graduating Ranger School … it’s groundbreaking,” he says. “We always tell [Soldiers] that they can do it. Physical size is not the limitation; it’s the amount of heart and soul that a Soldier brings.”

If you have the heart and soul to serve your State and your nation, the Army National Guard might be the perfect place for you. Most Guard Soldiers serve part-time and take advantage of fantastic education benefits to help pay for school. The Guard also offers training in more than 130 different careers, including fields like technology and networking, aviation, ground forces, and transportation.

Search the job board for details and contact a recruiter for more information.

From an original article by SGT Brian Calhoun, South Carolina National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in December 2019.

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Soldier Praises Guard for Benefits and Opportunities

The decision to join the military can be based on a number of factors – for some, the benefits alone seem worth it, while others feel it’s their duty to serve their country. For Specialist (SPC) Sychelle Gonsalves, it was a combination of both that influenced her to join the Army National Guard.

“At the time, I was 20 and I wanted to stay in Alaska,” she recalls. “The recruiter told me that they’d send me to basic training, and I’d only be there for a couple of months. Then I’d come back to Alaska and serve part-time.”

SPC Sychelle Gonsalves is a 31B Military Police Officer in the Alaska Army National Guard, stationed at Fort Greely with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion.

SPC Gonsalves was a bank teller at the time she enlisted. Being able to serve part-time while continuing to work in her civilian career was one of the main benefits that drew her to Guard service – the education benefits were an added bonus. She’s currently utilizing the Guard’s tuition assistance to pursue a degree in logistics.

In 2016, SPC Gonsalves began her Guard career as a 92Y Unit Supply Specialist as part of a Military Police unit in Anchorage. Logistics is her passion, but once she heard about the wealth of opportunities at Fort Greely, she reclassed into a new MOS so she could relocate. Now serving full-time as 31B Military Police, she’s stationed at Fort Greely with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion.

SPC Gonsalves says that enlisting in the Army National Guard has enhanced her interpersonal skills, decision-making abilities, and problem-solving techniques, as well as helped her discover her strengths and weaknesses, so much so that she competed in the 2019 Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition.

When she was approached to compete, she didn’t know anything about the competition and was nervous – but she participated anyway to see how far she could push herself.

“I just wanted to compete,” she says.

SPC Gonsalves first competed in the Battalion Best Warrior Competition, which is the local-level event in July of 2018. She took the title and went on to compete in the State-level competition, taking home the victory for that event as well.

She then went on to represent the State alongside one of her colleagues in the regional competition this past spring. While she didn’t win, her ability to excel against her competitors earned her Soldier of the Year (Battalion and State), Service Person of the Year from the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA), and Missile Defender of the Year (Missile Defense Alliance Advocacy).

She was the first female to win Soldier of the Year in the Alaska Army National Guard.

SPC Gonsalves is a proud Guard Soldier who finds gratification in her everyday routine. Whether she’s called to maintain traffic control points, assist with natural disaster relief, or aid other parts of the country, she’s always prepared and ready to fulfill the mission at hand, alongside a team of 300 Soldiers.

“You are part of a team of 300 that protects 300 million,” she says proudly.

SPC Gonsalves has sound advice for those interested in joining the Army National Guard: “Consider what line of job you’d like to do and go for it! Know that there are a lot of opportunities in the Guard, and the Guard will not let you down.”

If you’re looking for your dream job with benefits like education assistance, insurance, and the ability to serve close to home, explore available opportunities in the Army National Guard today. Whether you’re into technology, logistics, or ground forces careers, you’re bound to find the one that’s right for you. Browse the job board and contact a recruiter to learn how you can make a difference in your country and your community.

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Guard Offering $20k for Certain Jobs, but Benefits of Service Go Beyond the Bonus, Says Recruiter

Kyle Deleon, left, is one of the newest members of the North Carolina Army National Guard. Recruited by SSG Phillip Wongsing, right, Kyle received a $20,000 bonus for enlisting as a 13M Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Crewmember in January.

Out of the approximately 130 jobs you can do in the Army National Guard, there’s a list of a dozen or so of these jobs in every State that is offering new enlistees a $20,000 bonus right now.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Phillip Wongsing, a recruiter for the North Carolina Army National Guard, is quick to clear up any misconceptions that the military occupational specialties (MOSs) that make the list are jobs that no one wants to do.

“You get everything from plumbing to aviation to infantry to armor,” he says. “These are really good jobs – a variety of jobs in different career fields.”

The list varies from State to State and changes on a quarterly basis.

“It’s based on what the State needs at the moment to fill in positions, so we don’t have critical vulnerabilities within our organization,” says SSG Wongsing.

For example, as of this month in North Carolina, bonuses are available for 17 jobs this quarter. Here are just a few examples to demonstrate the variety:

The bonus is tied to a score of at least 50 on the ASVAB and to a 6-year enlistment in the Army National Guard, says SSG Wongsing. And, by the way, that’s six years of part-time service – as little as one weekend a month for drill and two weeks in the summer for annual training.

Here’s how the bonus works: Soldiers receive half the money when they successfully complete Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training. On their third-year anniversary they receive another quarter of the bonus. The final quarter arrives for their fifth anniversary.

But even if the MOS you want doesn’t come with a bonus, there are other financial incentives to think about. One is money for college. Because Army National Guard Soldiers have a dual mission to serve the State and the Nation, Soldiers can take advantage of both State and federal tuition assistance. SSG Wongsing says the North Carolina Army National Guard offers:

  • $4,500 a year for in-State college tuition reimbursement
  • $4,000 a year for federal tuition assistance
  • $384 a month for the GI Bill (paid directly to the Soldier for expenses)
  • $350 a month for the GI Bill Kicker (with a minimum ASVAB score of 50)

Affordable health insurance offered through the Guard is another way to save money. At $42 a month for medical and about $11 a month for dental, SSG Wongsing estimates that single North Carolina Guard Soldiers are paying about a quarter of what their civilian counterparts do.

Of course, money isn’t everything. Doing a job you like has its own rewards.

One of SSG Wongsing’s recent recruits may not have gotten a $20,000 bonus for enlisting as an 15Q Air Traffic Control Operator, but by the time he graduates college, he’ll have five years of paid training and experience in his field, which applies directly to a civilian career.

There are other motivations to serve in the Guard, too.

“If you have a heart for humanitarian work and adventure, then the National Guard is the place to be,” says SSG Wongsing, who helped distribute supplies to residents displaced by two hurricanes that hit North Carolina in 2018. The Guard also helped with evacuations, water rescues and storm clean up.

“You directly have a hand in the rehabilitation of your community and helping people in a time of stress,” he says.

If you’re into travel, there are opportunities to attend trainings in other States or countries. The North Carolina Guard, for example, is partnered with Botswana and Moldova through the State Partnership Program.

There’s also some friendly competition among the ranks. SSG Wongsing’s former armor company for example, won the Sullivan Cup in 2016, competing against the Marines and other Army units for the best tank crew, and then went on to finish third in an international competition. Last year, the New York Army National Guard sent athletes to the Winter Olympics, and then, there’s the annual Best Warrior Competition, a test of a Soldier’s knowledge and physical endurance.

And while most Soldiers serve part-time and have civilian jobs or go to school, there are also full-time jobs available in the Guard.

“The Guard is what you make of it,” says SSG Wongsing. “If you want to go to school full-time, and you still want to serve your community, have self-sovereignty in your life, and serve something bigger than yourself, the National Guard is a great opportunity to have two different lifestyles – the civilian and military that supplement each other.”

So, if you’re interested in what the Guard has to offer, our job board is a great place to start. You can search by keyword, State, or career field, such as logisticsadministrationengineeringintelligence, and more. For information about enlistment bonuses and benefits available in your State, contact your local recruiter.

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