FORT BENNING, Ga. -- With numerous functional training opportunities available across Fort Benning, instructors assigned here often attend courses such as Airborne School, Air Assault Course or Ranger School.
One Henry Caro Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructor, however, did more than simply attend functional training recently.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael McQuality, a small group leader for the Maneuver Senior Leaders Course, earned his Ranger tab after graduating from Ranger School Jan. 24 as part of Class 02-14. He also earned the title of distinguished honor graduate.
McQuality, 33, said he was afraid he would be behind the rest of his class due to his age, but said he was glad to find that his 14 years of Army experience was an asset rather than a hindrance.
"I felt going in that I was going to be behind physically," McQuality said. "I thought I'd just feel old with everybody else being young. But, when I got there, while I was older, it seemed like experienced people were needed. There are a lot of lieutenants there who are being exposed to senior NCOs and NCOs for the first time. The need for us to start that first mentoring experience with them is crucial."
NCOA Commandant Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Metheny said McQuality is a prime example of the quality of NCO that instructs at the NCOA.
"For a Soldier like Sgt. 1st Class McQuality to not only go to Ranger School as a senior NCO, which is something that's usually reserved for somebody the rank of specialist through staff sergeants, but to lead by example and realize the need to push himself both personally and professionally is huge," Metheny said. "Just to attend and graduate Ranger School is a credit to himself and his dedication, but to graduate as the distinguished enlisted honor graduate is really quite a feat. It speaks volumes about his character, tenacity and fitness, and it's really what we're getting at through the NCO education system and other functional training. We're developing agile and adaptive NCOs to meet the requirements of today's Army."
While his experience came in handy, McQuality said it was important for him to go into Ranger School ready to learn and grow as a Soldier.
"You definitely help a lot of people through, but you learn things as well," he said.
"A lot of senior NCOs go to Ranger School with the wrong attitude. They think they're not going to learn anything and there's no reason for them to go because they don't want to be treated like a private. Well, you aren't treated like a private. You're going to a school that's supposed to see both the best and the worst in you, and that's what you have to be prepared for. As far as learning, if you're positive about something and you keep that positive attitude, you're going to learn."
McQuality wanted to attend Ranger School from the beginning of his Army career, but never had that opportunity due to a series of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was not until he arrived at Fort Benning and the NCOA that the opportunity finally came.
"As a senior leader, it probably wouldn't have happened elsewhere because I'm not the most crucial Soldier to get to Ranger School," McQuality said. "The emphasis is on those young leaders. But, how can you -- as an older leader -- tell somebody to go to Ranger School if you don't have the tab yourself?"
Now that he has the Ranger tab, McQuality said he feels like he has been validated as a leader.
"Ranger School is not something that makes you a leader, but it validates you as a leader," McQuality said. "You can walk into a unit without a Ranger tab and you've got to prove yourself over a course of 30 to 60 days. If you walk in with a Ranger tab, you're kind of already validated."
McQuality also said that he hopes other NCOs and instructors will see what he has accomplished and will seek out functional training opportunities.
"You should always have that strive to be better and that strive for excellence," he said.
"There are so many leaders out there today that are content with a promotion to sergeant first class and think they've made it. You've got to continue to strive. That's what the Army is looking for and should be looking for."