1st Lieutenant Michelle Maguire is a Seward native who has distinguished herself in a number of ways: as an Alaskan, as a wife and mother of two, and as a platoon leader in the US Army’s 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. The subject of a recent Army video highlighting her accomplishments, Maguire recently completed Ranger School, becoming the 49th female US Army Airborne Ranger since the military opened the program to women in 2015.
Two days before embarking on her stint in Ranger School, Maguire graduated from Airborne School as the Officer Honor Grad. No easy feat regardless of gender, Ranger School is a training ground for the Army’s top soldiers. The two-month course puts initiates through a heavy regimen meant to bring out a soldier’s best under extreme conditions. The days are long, with little sleep and little food. Maguire underwent it all having little contact with her husband Topher or their two sons, Paxon, 7, and Ryker, 4. Throughout Michelle’s stint in Ranger School, Topher ran a home business and took care of the boys, though he was quick to point out that he was no substitute for their mother.
“I’m not Mr. Mom,” he said in the Army video. “I think that takes away from what a mom is, saying Mr. Mom. I’m still Dad. In every way I’m Dad, and Mom is in every way Mom. It’s just that the duties of each has changed, not necessarily for the worse.”
Back at Ranger School, Lt. Maguire was being tested, not just physically and mentally, but as a leader. Executing everything perfectly isn’t enough. A ranger has to inspire their team to give their best at all times as well.
“You really have to be somebody who is a team player and you have to be able to lead others in a way that motivates them to want to do what you ultimately need them to do,” Maguire said. “You could know everything that you have to do for a patrol and still get a no-go if your squad doesn’t care.”
By the time Maguire graduated last spring, COVID had begun to spread across the country, and graduation proceedings, for which her family could have ordinarily been present, were conducted on base before the graduates were allowed to return home.
“My platoon didn’t even get an opportunity until about three hours after graduation to use the payphone,” Maguire said. “I was able to call my husband for three minutes and tell him I graduated. He was so worried. He thought that I didn’t graduate because I hadn’t called him yet. It was just that I couldn’t get on a phone to call him.”
Soon thereafter the graduates boarded busses for home. Lt. Maguire said the joy she felt on first laying eyes on her sons after 78 days away was indescribable.
“I don’t even know if words can describe how happy I was,” she said. “While being on security, trying to stay awake, all you do is think about your family, and you can’t wait to get back to them, and then finally you know it’s coming. You know you’ve graduated, you’re still there, and you just want to see them. I don’t know how to put that in words. I was so glad to see them.”
A return home in the midst of a pandemic brought a few surprises. Maguire said that while in Ranger School, the Army released little information about goings-on back home. She was surprised to learn that Paxon’s school was holding all classes online.
“They want you to keep just focusing on passing Ranger School,” she said. “They’ll tell you bits and pieces of what’s going on. I didn’t know that the school had transitioned to online until I was out of Ranger School.”
The training provided by Ranger School is so intensive that the Army requires graduates to attend a mandatory month-long recovery program. Due to COVID lockdown, Maguire’s program was conducted online.
“They would have an instructor come and talk about nutrition and talk about stretching and what you can do to help your body recover,” she said.
Maguire is now stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where she joined the 35th Infantry Regiment as First Platoon Leader of Alpha Company. Since joining the company, she earned two more honors. Testing for her Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB), Maguire earned the title “True Blue” meaning she passed all 30 phases of testing without a single failure. The honor is a rare one, where in some cases only 70 people per thousand obtain the badge, and of those, only seven earn True Blue.
In November Maguire also graduated from Jungle School before taking her assignment as First Platoon Leader. Though only in the post since Dec. 1, Lt. Maguire has already proven herself an asset to Alpha Company.
“She’s extremely mature,” said her company commander, Captain Andrew Borrebach. “She has high intelligence. She thinks through a lot of issues before they occur, and she’s able to respond quickly to any necessary issues that come up. But her maturity is what really sets her apart from other lieutenants.”
From her earliest days in the earliest days in the Army National Guard, through Airborne School, Ranger School, Jungle School and as a True Blue Expert Infantryman, the challenges and opportunities presented by the Army have contributed greatly to 1st Lt. Michelle Maguire’s success, but she credits the groundwork for that success as being laid right here in Seward.
“My parents really drove me to be goal-oriented and have my priorities set, and being in a small town, it was great,” she said. “I was very grounded. I got to know a lot of people. I got community, which is a great thing growing up, but I always wanted to go see more, to know more.”
The Army’s video, “Strong Resilient Mother: The Story of 1st Lt. Michelle Maguire” is available to view on YouTube at https://youtu.be/5e4K9wQpFmA.