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Rookie 111th SFS member meets military idol

Man in Air Force duty uniform stands next to posses with John Gretton “Jocko” Willink.

Pennsylvania Air National Guard Airman 1st Class William Guilfoyle, a native of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, recently assigned to the 111th Security Forces Squadron, poses for a photo with his idol John Gretton “Jocko” Willink, a retired Navy SEAL officer who is also a popular podcaster and motivational speaker, at Biddle Air National Guard Base April 19, 2021. Guilfoyle, who was only on his third day on the job as a defender at the 111th SFS, said he often listened to Willink's podcast while preparing for basic military training and Air Force technical school. (U.S. Air National Guard photo provided by 1st Class William Guilfoyle)

BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Pa. --

Imagine being a rookie at a security forces squadron and having one of your idols pull up at the front gate with a cameraman on your third day on the job. Do you get star struck, or do you remain professional while doing your job?

Airman 1st Class William Guilfoyle, a native of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, serving with the 111th Security Forces Squadron, stayed frosty when John Gretton “Jocko” Willink, a retired Navy SEAL officer who rose to fame as a best-selling author and podcaster, rolled through the front gate of Biddle Air National Guard Base with members of his team requesting an opportunity to give an impromptu motivational speech to mobilized members of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard April 19, 2021.

“It was totally unreal because I remember when I left for basic training and when I was at tech school, I would listen to a lot of his stuff just to get in that head space of, ‘Let’s get after it.’” said Guilfoyle referring to one of the catch phrases often heard on Willink’s podcast. “For him to show up on base on literally my third day on the job-- I was just blown away to be able to meet him, and shake his hand.”

But before anyone shook hands, or took selfies with the military author better known as Jocko, Guilfoyle and his partner, Tech Sgt. Anthony Williams, had to see proper identification for the party and search their vehicle, especially if they wanted to meet with troops.

“Jocko knew the drill,” said Williams, a native of Easton, Pennsylvania now assigned to the 111th SFS. “He had the vehicle prepped with the doors and compartments open and he provided ID. It was obvious he understood we had a job to do.”

Williams said the chance encounter began when a few Pennsylvania Army National Guardsmen assigned to the 56th Striker Brigade ran into Willink doing a promotional video for social media at a local convenience store across the street from the base, and asked him to give a motivational speech to their unit.

To make Willink’s motivational speech happen, Guilfoyle and Williams cleared the former frogman’s vehicle, provided him with an operational security brief regarding capturing photography and video on the base, and escorted him to the 275 Guardsmen living here temporarily in support of a state mission.

Once in place, Willink used a combination of military history and humor to remind the crowd of citizen soldiers, who had left the comforts of home to fulfill their obligation to serve their community, that conditions could always be worse.

“The worst possible day that you have on this base isn’t 15 minutes of the pain that the guys felt at the Chosin Reservoir, at Normandy, at Gettysburg,” said Willink. “Whenever I face anything that’s challenging … I like it. It’s going to make me tougher. It’s going to give me a good story to tell. It’s going to toughen my mind. It’s going to bring us together … So, bring it!”

So, what do you do when you’re a security forces rookie, and one of your heroes rolls through the front gate, unannounced asking to address some troops?

If you’re anything like Guilfoyle, you take a deep breath, do your job and make your superiors proud.

“We are lucky to have a group of well-trained law enforcement professionals like Airman 1st Class Guilfoyle always ready to defend Biddle Air National Guard Base regardless of the situation at hand,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Ferguson, the 111th Attack Wing Command Chief. “We could not be prouder of our security forces squadron and what they do each day to keep us safe.”