U.S. Army Reserve Soldier leads the way

By Spc. Nicole Nicolas | Exercise News Day | Aug. 7, 2017

Hi-yah! An Army Reserve Soldier teaches incoming cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York to always karate chop the safety on the M240B machine gun. This ensures it is in the fire position before Soldiers charge the handle back and fire the weapon.

This is just a fraction of what Army Reserve Sgt. Gregory Girard from the 3rd Battalion of the 304th Infantry Regiment (U.S. Military Academy), 104th Training Division (Leadership Training), 108th Training Command from Saco, Maine imparts to cadets at the summer Cadet Basic Training before they start their first year at the academy.

“I watch the guys (cadets) on the line, walk up to line, even if it's on fire they’re still karate chopping," says Girard.

Girard and his team are here to familiarize the cadets with numerous weapon systems, including the M18A1 Claymore mine, M136 AT4 light anti-armor weapon, and the M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW), as well as teach them fundamental Soldier and team-building skills necessary to become the future leaders of the Army.

Teaching cadets various Soldier skills is the 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment’s mission during its month-long annual training, and it ensures they’re ready at a moment's notice to train other Soldiers if the need arise.

Additionally, Girard’s extensive military and police background, as well his current job as a Target distribution center trainer, aids him in teaching cadets the fundamentals.

"In comparing the police force and the military, the cadet atmosphere is the same. You constantly have to be in control of people and yourself and have military bearing," says Girard.

His previous experience as a SAW gunner for 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment makes him a subject matter expert that the cadets can learn from.

“(It’s) my favorite because when I was active duty I was a SAW gunner, so that’s all I ever carried,” Girard said. “It’s my baby,”

Girard's journey began when he was asked in Basic Combat Training if he wanted to be a U.S. Army Ranger. Before arriving at his first duty assignment he attended the Basic Airborne Course and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP).

Girard’s first four weeks of RASP were grueling, yet he made it through. He was among 33 of 175 to make it through the first part of RASP. The last four weeks included a crash course on the Ranger Battalion's mission to aid them in transitioning from basic training to the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon graduating, Girard’s first assignment was to the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Ga.

Unfortunately, Girard experienced a massive setback a month before he was scheduled to attend Ranger School.

During an airborne jump his main parachute failed to open, forcing him to deploy his reserve parachute. He landed hard, causing an injury to his shoulder.

Normally the Army reassigns a Soldier to a non-Ranger unit when he can't go to Ranger School, but Girard’s outstanding dedication permitted him to stay in the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment until the end of his contract.

Although he didn’t become a Ranger he still hopes for the opportunity to one day attend Ranger School.

At the time Girard didn’t see himself making a career in the military; he wanted to become a police officer when his contract ended. After serving four years in the military he enrolled in the University of Buffalo, followed by a police academy in Washington D.C. to become a police officer.

Girard missed his time the military, but didn’t want to leave his career as a police officer behind. So he joined the Army Reserve.

Girard’s Army Reserve unit, the 3 Battalion, 304th Regiment, sent him to a Best Warrior Competition in 2015. Sergeant 1st Class Charlie Crouchman, a senior non-commissioned officer trainer from the 3 Battalion, 304th Regiment, served as Girard's sponsor and assisted Girard by reviewing weapons and land navigation, as well as coaching him for a mock promotion board.

Crouchman says Girard's combat experience, physical fitness, and can-do attitude is what makes him an outstanding Soldier. He says that Girard’s hard work helped him win the Best Warrior Competition in the 108th Training Division.

Looking down the road, Girard hopes 10 years now when he's almost retired from the military cadets will remember what he taught them.

“It makes me feel good, I helped them along. Not just me; other cadre and even their battles, I do my small part. I enjoy doing that,” said Girard.

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