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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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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