Stewart Rayfield, left, and Charles Peters, right, were among those who attended a dining out which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate School at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. Rayfield and Peters were part of the very first class of graduates.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
By Matthew J. Wilson
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate School recently celebrated the graduation of its 50th class and honored the previous 49 classes with a dining out event at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.
Since 1962, more than 1,200 candidates have graduated from the Missouri Guard school.
Originally located at the armory on Market Street in St. Louis, the school has been in several locations in St. Louis, Jefferson City and Sedalia. It is currently found at Fort Leonard Wood under the command of the 2nd Battalion, 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute.
About 28 former graduates from 14 previous classes attended either the Class 50 graduation at the Missouri capitol rotunda or the dining out, including five members of Class 1.
"Thank you Class 1 for your service and every class in between," said Brig. Gen. James M. Robinson, assistant adjutant general for the Missouri Guard and the guest speaker at the dining out.
The evening began with a social hour that allowed former graduates time to share old stories and reminisce.
With a civilian and military background as an enlisted Soldier in photojournalism, it seemed a natural fit for Roy Malone to bring his speed graphic camera with him to his two weeks of annual training at Camp Clark in Neosho as a member of the first class to attend the Missouri Guard officer candidate school in 1962.
Malone, who went on to work as a reporter for the Associated Press in Jefferson City for seven years and then later at the St. Louis Post Dispatch for 23, wound up chronicling the training and accomplishments of Class 1 through photos and packaged them into a yearbook for the first 38 graduates.
"I took every picture in here," he said proudly while displaying the book.
At the suggestion of an in-law who was in the Missouri Guard, Malone and his brother Frank Malone decided that their six-year commitment to the Guard might be a little sweeter as officers.
"We said, 'Hey, we're in here - we might as well go through officer candidate school,'" Roy said. "It was a good experience. You meet a lot of people from around the state and you become friends with them. I met some of them here tonight and I haven't them in 50 years. It's hard to believe 50 years have passed."
Roy, who now lives in Glendale, enjoyed officer candidate school so much, he returned as a training, advising and counseling officer for Class 2.
"Officer candidate school has been a great benefit to not only the Missouri Guard, but also the individuals who went through it," Roy said. "It helped them in their civilian life - a lot of them have good jobs and have advanced."
Both Roy and Frank resigned from the Guard as first lieutenants and built Families. But what they learned from officer candidate school helped them take care of their Families for a lifetime.
"Frank was in engineering and later headed a company," Roy said. "Officer candidate school taught you leadership and management skills. So anybody who didn't want to get into it would be foolish if they knew how beneficial it is to them."
Roy said Frank passed away a few years ago.
"It was a good deal to go through officer candidate school with my brother," he said. "We both enjoyed it."
Another member of Class 1, retired Col. Charles Peters, reflected on what the creation of the officer candidate program meant to him.
"It was great because I would have never been commissioned if I had not gone through officer candidate school," he said. "In fact, at that time, you had to have your commission before you were 28 years old. I earned my commission on the 30th of June and I was 28 the first week of July, so I just made it."
The chance to be in the program almost passed Peters by when after initially being selected, he was told that he wasn't going to be able to go because they had ran out of room.
"But then about two weeks before it started they said we could handle a few more people, so I got in," he said.
Peters said it was a fantastic idea to invite all the previous graduates to come together to honor the program.
"It's really nice," said Peters, who lives in Loose Creek. "I've ran into about four of my old classmates and it's great to see them. Two of them I haven't seen in years. A lot of old memories are coming back from when we went through officer candidate school."
Memories of that first day of the program stood out to Peters.
"It was quite an experience, not really knowing what you were getting into," he said. "I had been in the Guard for eight years before I went, and so you think, 'I know about the military.' But I got there and realized that I didn't know anything."
Peters said he learned quickly that one of the most difficult things about officer candidate school is having all the privileges he'd earned as an enlisted Soldier taken away and starting all over as if he was again going through basic training.
"You realize that the thing they have to do is break you down and then build you back up again," he said. "That's what officer candidate school does - you've got to learn to take orders before you can give orders."
Capt. Timothy Gordon, a class 26 graduate, said he was pleased to be a part of the legacy of the Missouri Guard officer candidate school.
"I'm just honored to be included in this event," said Gordon, who lives in Jefferson City. "It's not only a milestone for the entire academy, but also a milestone for the new graduates. This event celebrates the accomplishments of the officer candidate school - where it's been and where it's going."
With 24 classes having graduated since his, Gordon, who currently is the Missouri Guard's force integration readiness officer, jokingly said it makes him feel old.
"But as one class retires, a new one comes in to replace it," he said.
Representing Class 50, 2nd Lt. Samuel Thomas, spoke about the future of the school during the dining out.
"Time goes by fast, Class 100 will be here before you know it," Thomas said.
Thomas said he and his classmates were proud to carry on the tradition and history of great Missouri Guard officer candidate school graduates.
"It's an honor," said Thomas, who lives in University City. "I met a colonel from Class 23 just a minute ago and he gave me advice about what to do. I'm just star struck."
The Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate School has produced several officers who have assumed senior leadership positions in the military. Among them are Lt. Gen. Frank Grass, a graduate of Class 19, who was recently appointed the chief of the National Guard Bureau; retired Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, a graduate of Class 12, who served as the director of the Army National Guard from June 2005 to November 2011; retired Maj. Gen. M. Wayne Pierson, a graduate of Class 12, who served as commanding general of the 35th Infantry Division; and retired Maj. Gen. King E. Sidwell, a graduate of Class 12, who was the adjutant general of the Missouri Guard.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.myspace.com/missouri_ng; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.moguard.com/blog; www.pinterest.com/monationalguard/
Missouri National Guard Brig. Gen. James M. Robinson, assistant adjutant general for the Missouri Guard, thanks all graduates of the Missouri Guard officer candidate school during a dining out that recognized the 50th anniversary of the school at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)