Guard Experience Gives Soldier Opportunity “To Be Part of Something Bigger Than Just Myself”

One of the main reasons SSG John Arnold joined the South Carolina Army National Guard was to get away from the 9-to-5 grind.

Mission accomplished.

His journey in the Army National Guard has taken him around the world and includes everything from working on multimillion-dollar boats in South Carolina to touring an ice cream factory in Afghanistan.

Though he’s had vastly different and wide-ranging experiences over his 10 years in the Army National Guard, one thing ties them all together: teamwork, discipline, the desire to succeed, and the willingness to learn something new.

Soldier Loves Guard’s Dual Mission

When SSG Arnold joined the Army National Guard, he was 26 and had an associate degree from a small technical college. He knew what he wanted: a sense of purpose. He also knew what he didn’t want: to work in a typical office environment.

He explored joining the military and passed up the other branches to join the Army National Guard.

“I loved the dual-mission aspect. We not only protect our own State and homeland, but we also travel abroad for peacetime and combat missions,” says SSG Arnold. “We’re the ‘jack-of-all-trades’ branch of the military and I absolutely love it.”

Different Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) Build Many Skills

His first MOS in the Army National Guard was 12B (Combat Engineer). To learn even more skills, he transitioned to several other MOSs, including 12R (Interior Electrician), and 12H (Senior Construction Supervisor).

“Another aspect I love about Guard life is I was able to change my MOS, which is tough to do in other branches of the military,” says SSG Arnold.

SSG John Arnold’s journey in the Army National Guard has taken him around the world and includes everything from working on multimillion-dollar boats in South Carolina to touring an ice cream factory in Afghanistan.
SSG John Arnold’s journey in the Army National Guard has taken him around the world and includes everything from working on multimillion-dollar boats in South Carolina to touring an ice cream factory in Afghanistan.

As he moved through different jobs in the Army National Guard, he took advantage of opportunities he encountered. The first was using the South Carolina Army National Guard’s Employer Assistance Team to get a job with a boat company. Another Soldier in his Unit was already employed there.

“I feel like my Guard experience played a major factor in getting hired,” says SSG Arnold. “It showed the company that I was disciplined, mechanically inclined with an electrical background, and that I was reliable.”

He was responsible for all the electrical components on each boat. Though he says it was “stressful and challenging” working on extremely expensive boats – “One screwup, I could fry an entire wiring harness and its components – he felt satisfaction when each job was finished.

Though he wasn’t able to accompany his Unit to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island (he had just received a promotion), he cheered them from afar. He was able to take advantage of deployments to Columbia, SC, to strengthen dams and remove debris from residential areas during torrential flooding; and Kandahar, Afghanistan, to build guard towers and cafeteria buildings, deconstruct forward operating bases, and ensure the safe transition from American forces to the Afghan National Army or local police.

Sharing Ice Cream and Experiences

It was in Kandahar, during what he calls his most fulfilling mission, that he encountered the ice cream factory.

“We did not get to taste the ice cream, however, the owner got to taste some American dip,” he says.

Though the ice cream factory was memorable, the impact he feels he made while there stands out more.

“We turned the land back over to the local tribal landowners who were, in turn, grateful and thankful for what the American forces had done in the area,” says SSG Arnold.

These are the types of experiences he gets to share every day in his newest role in recruitment. He also gets to speak with potential recruits about the benefits of service in the Army National Guard.

He tells them how he’s used his Army National Guard tuition benefits to pay back loans from his associate degree, to get a bachelor’s degree in emergency management, and start a master’s program in environmental policy and management. He tells them how the Guard gives him the opportunity to serve his community and his country. He tells them how the Guard is a great place to learn.

“The Army National Guard will teach you all of the skills you need during your AIT (Advanced Individual Training) school for your chosen MOS. To learn your MOS, all you have to have is the drive and desire to learn something new,” he says.

He also credits the Army National Guard with giving him self-assurance that will last his entire lifetime:

“Since joining, I’ve had the confidence to be able to take on anything life might throw at me, knowing I will take care of it.”

If you feel a calling to do more in life and give back to your community, check out the Army National Guard, where you’ll serve part-time and receive training in one of more than 130 careers in fields like Supply and LogisticsHeavy WeaponsGround Forces, and Administrative Careers. For details on any MOS, search our job board, and contact your local recruiter for more information.

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Dual Mission: Soldier Serves as Guard Intelligence Analyst and Recruiter

Specialist (SPC) Anna Xenitelis can rattle off the benefits of joining the Army National Guard pretty quickly.

There’s the pay, money for school, health care, and the ability to receive college credits for attending Army courses, to name a few. All of these things rate as fantastic in her book, “but for me, it really, truly is that you’re part of this giant family, and knowing that you have all these people around you, that no matter what happens, you’ll have someone to depend on at the end of the day.”

As a 35F Intelligence Analyst in the Arizona Army National Guard, Soldiers depend on her for the information they need to take action.

Last year, SPC Xenitelis spent nine months deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Her job was “to collect information from a multitude of sources to create one big picture on what’s happening around me.”

She didn’t need to know Arabic – there are translators for that – but her mission involved a lot of legwork, reading up to 3,000 reports a day about what is happening in the region.

“You have to constantly educate yourself on the area,” says SPC Xenitelis. “In order to be successful, you have to understand the past first.”

That means understanding the history of a country, its relationships with other nations, its political and military standpoints, and how it treats its civilians.

SPC Anna Xenitelis
SPC Anna Xenitelis is a full-time recruiter in the Arizona Army National Guard who also serves as a 35F Intelligence Analyst.

SPC Xenitelis was recognized as Soldier of the Month by her Unit, the 198th Regional Support Group, for her work during the deployment, and performing above her rank.

Even more fulfilling was an assignment she took on voluntarily to help her brother’s Army National Guard Infantry unit, which was on deployment in Afghanistan at the same time.

“It’s probably the best feeling that I’ve felt in this whole world knowing that maybe I helped my brother and the people on his convoy.”

Born and raised in Hawaii, SPC Xenitelis comes from a military family.

“I knew I wanted to be in the military,” she says. “I wanted to give back just like I saw my dad, my mom, and my brother get to do. I also wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

A family friend’s stories about his job as a military intelligence officer got her interested in the intelligence field. SPC Xenitelis was especially interested in conducting interrogations, but she learned that she would have to work her way up first.

She decided to go for the 35F Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). She enlisted in the Guard at age 17, but not before doing her own independent, objective research like any good intelligence analyst would. She also sought opinions from Soldiers and Airmen she knew to get their perspectives on their particular service branches.

Last fall, as she prepared to come back from deployment, SPC Xenitelis started researching Active Guard Reserve (AGR) jobs, (full-time positions in the Guard). There wasn’t anything available in intelligence, but a recruiting job caught her eye.

“I love the Guard, and if I can get other people to join, that would be great.”

Prior to that, in her civilian life, SPC Xenitelis ran a photography business, and had been working in a salon, using her Guard education benefits to pay for cosmetology school.

Now she’s a Guard recruiter full-time, but she’s still serving as a 35F every drill weekend because she has no intention to give up working in intelligence.

“I absolutely love my job,” she says.

So as a recruiter and an intelligence analyst, SPC Xenitelis’s advice for anyone joining the Guard is not that surprising: talk to a recruiter, but also do your own independent research.

One of the things you’ll do during the enlistment process is find an MOS that suits you. For a look at all of the careers that are available in the Guard, the job board is a great place to start. The Guard offers more than 130 MOSs in fields ranging from technology and networking, to mechanics and maintenance, to engineering and more.

Contact your local recruiter for more information about serving part-time in the Guard, maybe even SPC Xenitelis, if you’re in the Mesa, Ariz., area.

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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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