Sgt. Michael Murray, 51, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, takes a break from training. Murray recently turned in a commission to enlist as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea)
By Alexandra Shea Fort Jackson Leader
“I have a wild career,” said Sgt. Michael Murray. “I have 17 years of active duty, U.S. Army Reserve and California National Guard under my belt.”
Murray, a decorated Ranger with several deployments, began his career in 1992 when he attended infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He we later commissioned as an officer and completed Airborne School and Ranger Assessment and Selection.
Murray left military service about three years ago and has lived peacefully in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where he owns his own business. He said a nagging feeling lead him to an Army recruiter. He arrived to Fort Jackson late February to attend Basic Combat Training … again.
“At one point I never thought I would go back but I took a look at myself and I was feeling good,” Murray said. “I just had this urge to finish what I started.”
As Murray processed through the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception), he was issued his military identification card, completed his paperwork to enroll his Family benefits and was issued his uniforms like his fellow trainees.
Soon after he was transported to his training unit, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. As prior service, Murray has already earned the title of Soldier and is able to wear combat patches, specialty school badges and rank earned on his uniform.
On his first day back in uniform, he captured the attention of his fellow trainees, command team and drill sergeants, but it wasn’t just because of his Ranger tab and deployment patches. Murray drew attention for another reason, he is 51-years-old. He is nearly twice the age of most of his drill instructors and fellow trainees.
Standing at around five feet, 10 inches. He wears simple black framed glasses. While his patrol cap and a week’s worth of Forge dirt covers his normally brown hair, he has a full head of shortly cropped hair.
Murray easily is confused for being younger than his actual age due to his slight, but athletic build. When asked whether he has indeed found Ponce de León’s fabled Fountain of Youth near his Florida hometown, he replied “the Army kept me young.”
“I was surprised when I found out,” said Sgt. Jamie Sweeny, a drill sergeant assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. “He’s very humble and professional.”
Luckily, Murray isn’t alone being a prior service Soldier returning to BCT due to being out of military service for more than two years. Two other returning sergeants are a part of Murray’s company. Murray explained the three lean on each other during training and maintain a friendly competitive attitude toward one another.
“Having each other to rely on helps us get through it,” said Sgt. Eric Le, a 34-year-old prior service Marine. “With every graduation requirement, like the range or physical training, we get after each one of us to see who can do it better. It’s a great motivator.”
While Le is Murray’s junior by 17 years, he explained the Murray “still brings the heat” despite his age.
Though all three non-commissioned officers each have their own reasons for leaving and returning to military service, the need to finish what they started was the commonality they share.
Despite earning a law degree from the University of Southern California, Murray decided he wanted to complete his military career and become an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist (89D) for the Florida National Guard. He found a home with the National Guards only EOD unit in Florida, the 221st Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Camp Blanding. The only stipulation to become a member was to resign his commission as a captain and re-enter as a sergeant.
“I want to serve my state. I didn’t just want to sit back and be an observer during state emergencies,” Murray said. “My unit said the only way I could join is I had to go enlisted, but that’s the job I wanted, the job of a team leader.”
After completing BCT in the next few weeks, Murray will attend the first eight weeks of his Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia, then another 28 weeks at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle.
“I definitely have an edge here with all my experience,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s been easy, there’s some challenging aspects.”
Murray explained that his edge with experience will help him succeed during AIT as well.
Though graduation is close at hand, Murray is concerned about his wife and daughter as fears mount in Florida as numbers of those infected with COVID-19 in the state continue to rise. Throughout his time at Fort Jackson, Murray and his unit have been allowed to remain in contact with their Families to help ease fears and to remain focused on completing their training. Murray said his wife has supported him throughout his journey.
“She’s been great, super supportive and a real trooper holding down the fort,” Murray said. He jokingly added, “I think I married the right woman.”
Murray said he is excited to attend training in Florida to be closer to and see his Family again. Until then, he said he will focused on his training and help his fellow trainees succeed by mentoring and sharing his experiences and knowledge.
“I’m definitely excited about graduation and getting into a new MOS,” Murray said. “I’m also excited for the troops that will be graduating too. I feel really lucky to have this experience with my battalion.”