FORT MOORE, Ga. – As the U.S. Army prepares to celebrate Army Heritage Month and its 248th birthday, Spc. Luca Norian, a Massachusetts National Guard Soldier, recently completed Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training, Army Ranger School, Airborne School and Pathfinder School — all before his 21st birthday.
“Spc. Norian is a great example of a young American seizing the opportunities presented to him and coming out on top,” said Sgt. Maj. John Askins, the senior enlisted advisor for the deputy commanding general – Army National Guard at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Moore. “He stands out as an example for his generation, having volunteered to become a Citizen-Soldier and then faced some of the most mentally and physically challenging courses the Army offers.”
Norian recalls the image of drill sergeants carrying buckets of water and running next to him as he arrived at Basic Combat Training.
“I watched a lot of videos and thought I knew what to expect at basic training, but I wasn’t expecting to see a drill sergeant working with us instead of just yelling,” he said.
During their first team-building exercise, Soldiers must navigate obstacles, carry equipment, and move with their assigned team in a stressful environment. Known as “The First 100 Yards,” this event pays homage to the infantry’s role of closing the last 100 yards in combat. Drill sergeants demonstrate the tasks and participate in the activities alongside the trainees.
Norian attended basic training after high school, but unlike many of his peers, he started his first year of college before returning to Fort Moore to complete his Advanced Individual Training. He enlisted through the National Guard’s split-training option, which allows high school students to enlist while still juniors, finish that year and attend basic training during the summer before senior year. Following high school graduation, they attend AIT to train for their job.
Norian left basic training motivated to set a higher standard for himself.
“I returned to AIT with a better attitude and aggressively pursued leadership opportunities,” said Norian.
At the halfway point of AIT, 1st Lt. Sean Mills from the Army National Guard’s Warrior Training Center talked to Norian’s class about Ranger School opportunities and the Ranger Team Leader Initiative program.
Norian was surprised he got into Ranger School.
“I first learned about Army Ranger School when I was 12 years old and always wanted to be one, but didn’t think I would get an opportunity,” said Norian.
Most notably, he completed all phases of each school successfully the first time. Historically, only about 20 percent of Ranger School students can finish without having to restart training due to rigorous course standards.
Ranger School is the Army’s premier leadership school and a pinnacle of the infantry training pipeline. It is a proving ground for Soldiers to become small unit leaders.
“When assessing Ranger School candidates, we look for strong will,” said Mills. “Norian had a high level of natural fitness and intelligence, but what I remember most is his maturity, military bearing and self-discipline.”
Norian graduated from Ranger School and immediately entered Airborne and Pathfinder schools.
“When I got to Airborne School, I immediately felt pressure to perform,” said Norian.” I felt like I had to get everything on my first try.”
He was the honor graduate of his airborne class. Among his classmates at Airborne School and Pathfinder School were former drill sergeants and Ranger instructors.
Also joining him as a classmate during Pathfinder School was Mills.
“Completing Pathfinder requires an extremely high level of academic performance, work ethic and ability that is rare for his rank and time in service,” said Mills. “His former cadre and I were incredibly proud to watch him develop and succeed.”
The RTLI program identifies high-performing and physically fit ARNG Soldiers. It tracks their progress during basic training and AIT on their physical fitness, leadership skills, grit, fortitude and potential to be successful.
“The purpose of the RTLI program is to increase the amount of enlisted Ranger-qualified Soldiers throughout the Army National Guard,” said Thomas Siter, deputy commander for the Army National Guard’s Warrior Training Center.
The 30-day RTLI program assesses and prepares Soldiers to complete the top five attrition events during the Ranger Assessment Phase of Ranger School. The ARNG WTC is the only Department of Defense agency offering the Ranger School pipeline directly from basic training.
Norian’s entire family and girlfriend traveled from Massachusetts to attend his Ranger School graduation at Fort Moore, with his father pinning his Ranger tab.
Norian is with the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, in Agawam, Massachusetts.
Now a college sophomore, he is studying data science and foreign languages and developing his background and technical skills for his future career.
“Spc. Norian epitomizes ‘Be All You Can Be,’” said Askins. “His hard work and accomplishments so far speak a lot to his dedication and potential as a Citizen-Soldier.”
The U.S. Army celebrates its birthday and Flag Day on June 14, providing an opportunity to thank and honor all who have served in the Army in the past 248 years. Army Heritage Month, also in June, recognizes the achievements and contributions of Soldiers, families and civilians while embracing the diversity and experiences that enhance military effectiveness.
Sgt. Tianna Field contributed to this story.