Retired SEAL Jocko Willink surprises guard members, tells them to relish adversity – Stars and Stripes

Posted: May 1, 2021 at 6:01 am

A security forces airman was guarding an air base in Pennsylvania when his idol, former Navy SEAL and podcaster John Gretton Jocko Willink rolled up to the gate and asked to enter.

Airman 1st Class William Guilfoyle, who prepared for basic training and pushed through technical school with the help of Willinks podcasts, was thrilled to see the retired naval officer this month at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pa.

I was just blown away to be able to meet him and shake his hand, said Guilfoyle, a native of Susquehanna, Pa.

Willink made the impromptu visit April 19 after some Pennsylvania Army National Guard soldiers ran into him making a promotional video, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard said in a statement this week. The soldiers from the 28th Infantry Division invited him to give a speech to some 275 mobilized guard members temporarily living on the base on state orders.

When Willink and his team showed up at the gate, Guilfyole stayed frosty, the statement said. He and Tech. Sgt. Anthony Williams, both with the 111th Security Forces Squadron, checked the visitors identification, searched their vehicle, gave an operational security briefing and escorted them to the designated area.

In a three-minute video of the talk with the soldiers, posted to Willinks social media accounts, a soldier off-screen describes a scenario thats not all that great.

Foods not great, non-ideal sleeping conditions, maybe the shower trailers broke down, the unidentified man said. All that starts adding up.

The crowd laughs and Willink grins before putting their plight in historical perspective.

The worst possible day that you have on this base isnt 15 minutes of the pain that the guys felt at the Chosin Reservoir at Normandy, at Gettysburg, he said. Whenever I face anything thats challenging, whenever anything sucks, I like it. Its going to make me tougher.

The military uses the suckfest of boot camp and challenging schools and experiences to build bonds between troops until they ultimately arrive in combat, which sucks the worst of all but makes units even tighter, Willink explained.

In Iraq, where he commanded SEAL Team 3s Task Unit Bruiser 15 years ago, his sailors became very close with the Armys 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, headed by then-Col. Ron Clark, now a major general and chief of staff of Indo-Pacific Command.

The citation for Willinks Silver Star earned during that deployment praises his leadership, vision and courage under fire. He spearheaded missions and led forces in high-intensity and bloody urban warfare, it says.

During his speech, Willink credited the bonds developed through shared adversity as directly contributing to their successes.

So, when something sucks? Good, he said. Good! Its going to make me tougher and its going to make us stronger.

By Thursday, the video had garnered some 673,000 views on Instagram.

Meanwhile, the security forces rookie Guilfoyle received praise from his leadership for keeping his cool around his idol.

We could not be prouder of our security forces squadron, said the wings Chief Master Sgt. Robert Ferguson.

garland.chad@stripes.comTwitter: @chadgarland

Pennsylvania Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Anthony Williams poses with John Gretton ''Jocko'' Willink, a retired Navy SEAL officer at Biddle Air National Guard Base, Pa., April 19, 2021. Williams was on duty when Willink paid an impromptu visit to the base.ANTHONY WILLIAMS/U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD

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Retired SEAL Jocko Willink surprises guard members, tells them to relish adversity - Stars and Stripes

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