MAY 20, 2020 – At the age of 24, Staff Sgt. Ryan Guilfoil realized he needed to make a change in his life.
After five years working as a bartender and seeing his future gradually slipping away, Guilfoil took a giant leap by enlisting in the Army, hoping to see his fortunes improve.
Some 11 years later, Guilfoil’s leap of faith has paid off, as he continues to serve his nation, now as a recruiter for Paradise Valley Recruiting Station – the same station he enlisted in all those years ago.
Guilfoil, originally a native of Concord, Mass., moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., at the age of 6, developing a healthy interest in sports as a youngster.
“I attended elementary, middle and high school in Scottsdale, graduating from Desert Mountain High School in 2003,” Guilfoil said. “I grew up always playing a sport, focusing mainly on basketball. I played Varsity for my high school during my junior and senior year and traveled with the Arizona Elite Basketball Club.”
After graduating high school and attending college for a short time, Guilfoil found himself searching for a purpose, one that wasn’t immediately forthcoming.
“After attempting college, I served/bartended for 5 years before I realized I needed a change of pace. I wanted to get out of the drink and food service industry and needed some direction in my life,” he said. “I was 24 when I finally decided to pull the trigger and join the Army. My grandfather and great grandfather were both in the Army, but I didn’t find this out until I was actually serving.”
Guilfoil initially signed up for the Arizona National Guard, before realizing his heart lay with active duty service.
“I joined through the Arizona National Guard out of their recruiting station in Paradise Valley Mall. In 2009, they had the option of going “Active First,” which meant I was able to do three years of active duty service before going back to my guard unit,” Guilfoil explained. “However, once my reenlistment window opened up two years later, I stayed on active duty. I couldn’t imagine going back.”
Guilfoil enlisted as a human resource specialist, trying to see career opportunities beyond the Army.
“Although my first plan was to do one of the cool ‘run and gun’ combat jobs, I knew I wouldn’t be in the Army forever,” he said. “I wanted to learn a job that would translate well into the civilian sector. I knew just about every corporation had a human resources department and many of them make good money.”
Joining the Army at the age of 24 meant Guilfoil was older than many of those around him, meaning he was looked at instantly for leadership and guidance.
“This helped form the way I would continue my career, as a leader and mentor. As soon as I made the rank of sergeant in 2013, I used the knowledge I had learned to mentor two of my specialist battle buddies,” he said. “This helped them earn their stripes as noncommissioned officers the following month.”
Guilfoil spent a year in South Korea, his first time out of the U.S., something he found to be an enlightening experience.
“This was an opportunity I never would have experienced if I hadn’t joined. Seeing a new culture first hand and traveling to different parts of the world was incredible,” Guilfoil added.
Guilfoil also had the opportunity to deploy to Iraq, as the Army was ceasing operations there in 2011.
“My first deployment was with the 1st Cavalry Division to Iraq, when we were tasked with shutting down (Forward Operating Base) Cobra and closing Joint Base Balad,” Guilfoil recalls. “This was my first time being in a combat zone, and making it through without harm is something I now explain when talking to concerned parents.”
Eventually Guifoil’s career bought him back full circle to Arizona, where he became a recruiter for the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion in January, after three years in Taunton, Mass.
“I’ve been a recruiter for four years now, and have seen both failure and success,” Guilfoil said. “My first couple of years were difficult, but I learned a lot, and was able to use that knowledge to guide me through the conversion board and get selected to become a 79R (permanent recruiter).”
Guilfoil said he uses the failures of the past to aid in developing strategies to win, as well as having both inspiring leadership and teammates, something necessary during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“Working from home during this pandemic has been an unexpected challenge, as we’ve had to rely solely on digital marketing and processing … but we’ve started to figure it out,” Guilfoil posited. “We are problem solvers, that’s what we get paid to do. So when a problem like this presented itself, we had to adapt and overcome.”
Along with his two sons Dylan, 7, and Caleb, 4, Guilfoil is excited to see what the future holds for himself and his sons, with his Army career in full swing.
“I’m always eager to learn and grow. As I transition to the station commander role and fully take over the station, I see great success on the horizon,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have really great recruiting mentors, who I try to emulate in my leadership style while I continue to develop my own. My goal is to be able to be a mentor like that to my recruiters.”
Story by Alun Thomas
U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion – Phoenix