Bryan Ruiz: From a Boy to a Soldier


While many typical teenagers spent their summer traveling, hanging out with friends or just sleeping all day, 17-year-old Bryan Ruiz (12) was an exception to that. 

This past summer, Ruiz went into basic training for the National Guard as a boy and walked out as a man. 

“I signed an eight-year contract with the National Guard, a branch of the Army, so what I did this summer was a stow option: you can do basic training one summer and then the next summer you do your MOS training,” Ruiz explained.

This training took place in Fort Benning, Ga. and lasted for 75 days. Through the crucial days of ruck marches and grenades, Ruiz explained what it means to become an American soldier. 

“The body will suffer if the mind can’t comprehend,” Ruiz shared. 

Starting the day as early as 5 am, Ruiz and 40 other boys would work out excessively, learn how to shoot a rifle and combative skills, throw grenades, learn how to use a map and a compass and so much more. Ruiz shared how basic training was divided among three phases: red, white and blue, in which each phase would last roughly about three weeks.

 “In red phase they would transition us from civilian life to soldier life, so they taught us discipline, how to work with each other, and get along with each other, and learn how to be as a team, and not think as one but as a whole,” Ruiz explained. 

After red phase, the soldiers-in-training would then be transitioned onto the white phase, where he said they would be at the gun range all day and would learn how to shoot, how to zero out weapons and control breathing.

Which leads to the final phase: the blue phase.

 “Blue phase is more combative, 10-mile rucks and learning how to get in the field,” Ruiz explained. 

Once all three phases were complete, they would all get a week to meet up with their families and catch up with one another before attending graduation. 

“Quite a few of us graduated,” Ruiz said. “We had 41 guys to begin with, and only ended up with 35 [by graduation].” 

Sundays were their only days off, that’s when they would attend religious services, did laundry or cleaned their barracks. Overall, through the rough moments of running 10 miles with 50-pound weights on your back to the exhilarating days of shooting a rifle or throwing grenades, Ruiz believed the experience was a great opportunity for him.

Another big part of the training was not having a phone with you at all times and not being able to see your family for the 75 days you’re there.

 “Felt like an eternity everyday I was gone from my family,” Ruiz admitted. “It was hard [for my family and friends], it was hard being away for so long. My mom would cry when I called her. It was sad to see her cry, but I made this decision to fight for my country, so I had to be strong.” 

The only time Ruiz and the other boys were able to get the chance to talk on the phone and reach out to their families was between each phase on a Sunday. After red phase everyone got a five-minute phone call, after white phase they were granted a 30-minute phone call, then once they’ve completed the blue phase they were able to have an hour-long phone call. However, during the phases the only way to communicate with the outside world was through letters.

 “My girlfriend was the only one that wrote letters to me,” Ruiz said. “She wrote letters to me everyday; it was nice and very helpful. I still have those letters with me.” 

Overall, Ruiz said not having a phone didn’t bother him as much but not having contact with the outside world was hard at times. 

“Not knowing what was going on like [the shooting] in El Paso, the hurricane in Louisiana, or whether my family was safe was tough,” he added.

    As Ruiz looks back, he shared how the biggest thing he’s taken from this experience is to not take things for granted. Looking into the future, he said he’s planning to go again next summer to a MOS training.

This past summer Ruiz made the decision to do something that most teenagers would not do because of a promise he made to our country. He learned the actions and discipline of an American soldier this past summer, and what it means to fight as one as well.