By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (March 30, 2023) — Staff Sgt. Randall Threet stood out among the basic combat training graduates from Company F, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, who walked across the Baker Theater stage today.
For one thing, he’s an NCO completing BCT alongside about 300 privates and privates first class. For another, he’s as old or older than most of his fellow trainees’ parents.
“They don’t see me as a father figure — more like a grandfather figure,” Threet said with a laugh. “One of the guys came up to me one day to show me some pictures. He said, ‘Look, this is my grandfather. He’s only a year older than you.’”
This is Threet’s second BCT experience. He first completed initial military training 30 years ago in 1993, at Fort McClellan, Alabama, entering the Army Reserve as a Military Policeman.
“I’d always wanted to be a police officer, and I figured the best way to get some experience would be the military,” he said. “My grandfather was in the military also, back in World War II, and he was an MP, so I figured that would be the way to go — I looked up to my grandfather and wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Threet did become a police officer, in his hometown of Athens, Alabama, and he’s been doing that for the past 23 years. He said he enjoys being able to help people.
“You basically get to help the people in your community, the people you actually live with — so basically, you’re helping your neighbors,” he said.
One regret he has had, though, was transitioning out of the Army in 2006 — going through this experience now is a way to finish what he started, he said.
“I initially joined with the idea that I was going to do my complete 20 years,” Threet said. “After getting out, I realized I had made a mistake. So, I got back in to finish what I had started.”
Getting to this point was the hardest part, he added, noting he started the process about 2.5 years ago.
“A friend I had deployed with sent me an article on a gentleman who was 58 and had gotten back into the service,” Threet said. “I jokingly messaged him and said, ‘I’m in better shape now than I was. Do you think they would take me?’ He messaged me back and said ‘Try.’”
With his prior service documented, and an age waiver completed, Threet was back in, though he said there were moments when he wasn’t sure the Army would take him.
“There were a couple of times when I thought this isn’t going to happen — I guess I’m too old,” he said. “There was a lot of paperwork. The Army wants all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.”
Going through BCT a second time — a requirement for someone who has been out of the military that long — Threet said some of the experience was more difficult, but he also feels good knowing he “hung in there with a bunch of 18-, 19-year-olds.”
“It really made me feel my age sometimes, but I figured, if I can do this, I think I can do anything,” he said.
One of Threet’s drill sergeants in Foxtrot Company, Staff Sgt. Nena Tulensru, said he’s only ever trained one other older trainee — a 48-year-old about a year ago.
“It’s challenging for them, but they push,” Tulensru said. “They’re the ones who hold the standard for the rest of the trainees to follow. They set the example.”
Pvt. Jesse Terrell trained alongside Threet. The 20-year-old, who will perform human resources functions for the Oklahoma National Guard, said it was inspiring having Threet in the unit.
“I definitely worked harder knowing he was here because I didn’t want to be outworked by him,” Terrell said. “I think it really helped us a lot as a unit to see someone his age doing so well, and if we had questions, he’s done his best to answer what he can.”
Threet said living with hundreds of younger trainees for 10 weeks has had its ups and downs — he looks forward to a Caribbean vacation with his wife now that it’s over — but he has seen the discipline and confidence instilled in them at BCT.
“They might decide the Army isn’t a good fit for them — and they may decide they want to do 20 years — but it’s good for them,” he said. “It gives them a different perspective on life and will help them in their future careers. Working with other people. Accomplishing a task. That’s a lot of what the Army teaches you, and that’s what most workplaces look for — someone who is a team player, who can get in there, work with a group and get the job done. To me, that’s what the Army is all about.”
To others like him out there on the fence about joining the Army, Threet said “don’t ever think you’re too old for something — get out there and do it.”
“Don’t underestimate the old guys,” he said.
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.
More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission