‘Old Guard’ Soldier mentors brother
Sgt. Frank Frenette was greeted by a familiar face one night during a 24-hour shift at the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment’s (The Old Guard), regimental indoctrination program [RIP] room on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., His younger brother, Spc. James Frenette, who was carrying bags of equipment and uniforms over his shoulders, was in town. He wasn’t there for a social visit; however, he was reporting for duty.
“I applied to come to The Old Guard because it is such an amazing unit,” said James, supply specialist, Delta Company, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard). “I was so excited when I was accepted. I knew that it would also get me closer to my brother, which was really nice as well. I thought it was cool that my brother would teach me how to be ‘Old Guard.’”
The Old Guard’s primary mission is to conduct funerals for our nation’s heroes in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
To ensure Soldiers carry out this solemn mission with the utmost professionalism, they go through RIP, a four-week training program which teaches new Old Guard recruits the high uniform, rifle manual and marching standards of The Old Guard.
Frank, a RIP instructor who has been training new Soldiers for more than a year, said it was a unique opportunity to train someone so close to him.
“This unit means so much to me, so having my brother come here means a lot,” said Frank. “We had always been close when we were growing up. It seems like we can’t stay apart from each other for very long.”
During their childhood, the two brothers were inseparable. They enjoyed everything from competitive sports to video games with one another.
“We were just two years apart, so we did almost everything together. When we were in high school, I tried to really look after him,” said Frank. “I made sure that I shared with him everything that I knew.”
After high school, the two went their separate ways to begin their adult lives. Frank joined the Army, and James went on to college. However, James found himself out of work with with no way to support his family shortly after graduating.
“I had no idea what I was going to do,” said James. “I was talking to my brother one day and he suggested that I consider the military.”
James let that conversation sink in for a while. A few months went by before he decided to raise his right hand to serve his country.
“Joining was a great decision. I couldn’t have been happier that I finally listened to my brother,” James said jokingly. “I really think it is so interesting now that we are together again. I have learned so many things about the Army and this unit from my brother. It is like back when we were younger.”
The Frenette brothers ensured their relationship would not interfere with the mission at hand.
“When the uniform is on he is respectful just like anybody else, but when we are off work things go back to normal for us,” said Frank. “I was able to train with him everyday just like the other Soldiers, and I didn’t let him cut any corners during the training.”
Frank said he never showed his brother favoritism. Instead he was a little harder on him because of their relationship.
“My brother didn’t hesitate to call me out occasionally as his demonstrator or if I was jacked up,” said James. “I kept hearing my name being called, and I would respond ‘yes, sergeant.”
At the end of each week during RIP the Soldiers are tested and graded on what they learned.
James admitted the testing on the rifle manual was the most difficult, but he was able to get some well needed training while off duty by his big brother.
“I called him when I had any questions about something we learned,” said James. “On the weekend I would visit him, and he would help me work on movements and getting my timing down.”
Frank said it was important to make sure his sibling and every Soldier was trained to the standard.
“It’s crucial that my brother and all these Soldiers are trained and graduate on time. They each have a particular job that will help The Old Guard carry out its mission,” said Frank. “My job is to make sure this unit has trained Soldiers.”
Frank continued by saying how proud he was of the hard work and accomplishments of his younger brother.
“I know he was surprised when he saw all that goes into being an Old Guard Soldier, but it was great to see him go through it and come out better,” said Frank. “I am a proud brother.”
Their relationship did not change throughout the course of the RIP program.
“My brother has helped me learn the standards of this great unit, and I appreciate him for that,” said James. “What he did and continues to do for me is something that I will always be thankful for.”