FORT BENNING, Ga. (USASOC News Service, May 18, 2015) -- Four years ago, Kevin Shinnick was looking for a challenge in his life that would push his physical and mental limits. Being from a small town in Milford, Massachusetts, he had one goal - to join the Army.

He was a member of the high school wrestling team, received "average grades," as he described, during school. So in 2011, Shinnick enlisted in the Army as an infantryman.

"Throughout my childhood, I was playing with my toy Soldiers, watching war movies," he said. "Having never had any family served in the military, my parents instilled a lot of patriotic values into me."

After completing one station unit training on Fort Benning, Georgia, Shinnick, now a sergeant, received orders to the 2nd Infantry Division out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Upon arrival, he noticed the Rangers from 2nd Ranger Battalion always conducting training on the airfield near where his unit was located.

During a 12-month deployment, Shinnick submitted a packet to attend the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, or RASP, to become a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment. When he returned from his overseas stint, Shinnick went directly to Fort Benning.

"RASP was difficult, both physically and mentally challenging," Shinnick said. "You are required to work closely with everyone around you, trusting the guy next to you."

Upon graduation from RASP, Shinnick received orders to 3d Ranger Battalion. On arrival, Shinnick began training with his unit in preparation for a combat deployment to Afghanistan. He said his fondest memories, in the unit, were on that deployment because of the camaraderie he built with the men to his left and right.

After returning from deployment, Shinnick began to seek out new challenges. His primary focus was going to Ranger school, but he also looked at other ways to test his skills. His leadership pushed him to a Soldier of Month board at his company, to which he did not do so well.

Shinnick felt his performance could have been better, so he asked his leadership for another chance to attend the board. He would go on to win the company-level board, followed by the battalion-level, Regiment-level and the 2014 U.S. Army Special Operations Command Best Warrior Competition. Shinnick's attempt to be the Army's Best Warrior fell just short, but believed that the competition helped him become a better Ranger.

"It was an immense challenge at every level, but the leadership support I had was crucial," he said. "The leadership I've experienced in the Ranger Regiment is unparalleled to anything I have experienced in my life."

After the competition in the fall of 2014, Shinnick received the opportunity to attend the military freefall school. In January of this year, he was able to attend and graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger Course, earning his Ranger tab and the honor graduate for the class.

"Graduation was a monumental day for me. Since day one at Regiment, you're told to focus on going to Ranger school before going anywhere else," he said. "It was the pinnacle of my tenure in the Ranger Regiment. To be the honor graduate was a surprise but it's what expected of us."

The next challenge awaits Shinnick at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he has been accepted to attend this fall. He looks to live Abram's Charter to go out and spread his experiences to the rest of the Army.

"I've always wanted to maximize my time in the Army," Shinnick said. "I'm going to keep going as long as it challenges me and as long as I'm having fun. It's hard for me to imagine either of those things stopping."

Shinnick credits his successes in life and in the military to his mother and father, who instilled "a lot of patriotic values" in him. He also recognizes his Ranger buddies and leaders for being people who could look up to.

"Every day I ask myself two questions: What did I do to better myself today and what did I do to better the world around me," he said. "That's the type of people the 75th Ranger Regiment is looking for."