Newly commissioned Missouri National Guardsman 2nd Lt. Tyler Ritenour, left, gives his first salute as an officer to his father, Mark Ritenour, a former enlisted Missouri Army National Guardsman, to close out his officer candidate school graduation ceremony at the Fallen Warrior Memorial Auditorium at Ike Skelton Training Site.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
By Matthew J. Wilson
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard recently added a new officer to its ranks.
Tyler Ritenour, who served with a decorated career in the Missouri Guard for 11 years as an enlisted Soldier, accepted his commission as a second lieutenant during an officer candidate school graduation at the Fallen Warrior Memorial Auditorium at the Ike Skelton Training Site.
"It's a real big accomplishment," said Ritenour of graduating and becoming an officer. "It's going to be completely different than the noncommissioned officer side, of course. Now I'll be working more behind the scenes as it comes to planning and making decisions."
Ritenour, who lives in Maysville, began officer candidate school in March as part of Class 50 at the Missouri Guard's 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute at Fort Leonard Wood. He trained there for one weekend each month to complete Phase Zero of the program. In June, Ritenour transferred to the accelerated program at Fort Meade, S.D., where he completed Phases I-III during the course of eight weeks.
The most challenging aspect of officer candidate school for Ritenour was quickly going from among the senior enlisted ranks back to the bottom rung of the ladder, he said.
"After being in for 11 years, having everything taken from you was difficult," he said. "We were all treated the same, even though there were people in there that the only military experience they had was basic training."
Because Ritenour, who branched aviation to be an AH-64D Apache pilot, is scheduled to leave for flight school in the near future at Fort Rucker, Ala, he was allowed to commission earlier than his 14 other Missouri Guard classmates, who'll graduate Sept. 8 at the Capitol rotunda in Jefferson City.
Ritenour had the highest grade-point average of his peers and earned the class's academic award, which also was presented at the graduation ceremony.
"I didn't know I was getting that - it was a very big surprise," he said. "It means a lot. I know from going through Phase Zero there were some people in the class that are extremely brilliant, so it really surprises me."
When Ritenour returns from the 18-month flight school, he'll be attached to the 1st Battalion, 135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Ritenour said the biggest thing he learned in officer candidate school is personal responsibility.
"The decisions you make affect so many people," he said. "If you were trying to get ammunition for a range and you make one less zero on the form, you are only going to have 1,500 rounds instead of 15,000. That all falls on you."
Being in the military and the Guard is a Family tradition for Ritenour. His father, Mark Ritenour, served in the active-duty Army before finishing his career as a staff sergeant in the Guard. His grandfather, Ron Ritenour, is a retired Missouri Air Guard senior master sergeant.
"I love every day that I'm in the uniform," Ritenour said. "It's the best thing ever and I'm very proud of our Family legacy. I just keep trying to strive to do more."
To close the ceremony, Mark was given the opportunity to be the first person to salute his son.
After being born in St. Joseph, Ritenour moved about once every three years as his father changed duty stations in the Army, which included stops in Germany, Korea and Washington D.C.
On Ritenour's 17th birthday, he awoke early to the aroma of bacon and eggs and was greeted at the breakfast table by an Army recruiter invited over by his father, Ritenour said.
"This brought an unexpected smile to my face," Ritenour recalled. "It was at that point that I realized that for my birthday my old man started what has been a very strong and busy career that has shaped my life into what it is today."
Throughout his military career, Ritenour has been a standout example of a Missouri Guardsman. Because of his Family and upbringing, Ritenour went into basic training with far more military knowledge than his peers and quickly earned leadership positions. He graduated basic training as an honor graduate and completed his Advanced Individual Training as a light wheeled vehicle mechanic as honor graduate.
Because he had such high physical training scores during his initial training, Ritenour was allowed to attend Basic Airborne School.
From there Riteour began college and joined ROTC where he earned the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency in gold, the Ranger Challenge Tab and completed the Bataan Memorial Death March.
After a deployment in support of Operation Noble Eagle from 2003-2005 at Fort Bragg, N.C., Ritenour did not return to college and instead started a Family.
Ritenour has earned honor graduate at three additional schools - Warrior Leader Course, Air Assault School and Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course Phase I.
He made a second deployment to Kosovo from 2008 to 2009 before attending the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School where he became the first National Guardsmen to be named honor graduate and earn the leadership and over-300 physical training awards.
In addition, Ritenour has three Army Commendation Medals.
Through all the schools Ritenour has been through, he said officer candidate school has been the most difficult.
"For the hours you put in and the amount of work you do, it's probably harder than drill sergeant school," Ritenour said.
During the week, before taking on officer candidate school, Ritenour worked as a military technician for about eight years at the Missouri Guard's Field Maintenance Shop 6 in St. Joseph.
In the future, Ritenour said he'd like to work his way up in rank to captain or major and settle into an active-Guard administrative officer position.
"I'd like to make plans and decisions on a daily basis," he said.
A 2002 graduate of North Platte High School in Dearborn, Ritenour is 12 credit hours short of a Bachelor's of Science Degree in multidisciplinary studies from Grantham University in Kansas City.
Ritenour is supported in his military career by his wife, Tricia, and sons, Ethan, 6, and Evan, 2; his father, Mark Ritenour, who lives in Kansas City; his mother, Rhonda Harris, who lives in Minnesota; his grandfather, Ron Ritenour, who lives in St. Joseph; and grandmother, Phyllis Davison, who lives in Faucett.
It's possible, Ritenour said, that either or both of his sons might continue on the Family's military tradition. But he won't expect it of them.
"I'm really going to flight school because I believe it will provide me a better life to give my children - so they'll have the option of joining the military," Ritenour said. "I had to join if I wanted to go to college, but everyone wants to improve for the next generation."
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Missouri National Guardsman Tyler Ritenour, left, has his new second lieutenant's bars pinned on by his wife Tricia after he accepted his commission during his officer candidate school graduation at the Fallen Warrior Memorial Auditorium at Ike Skelton Training Site.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)