FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — For his 50th birthday, Spc. Orlando Kinchloe was gifted 50 push-ups and a cadence rendition of “Happy Birthday,” courtesy of his fellow trainees and cadre of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment. The short reprieve in training to acknowledge his milestone birthday was a welcome celebration for the infantry Soldier, who completed basic combat training for the second time after a 21-year break in military service.
Kinchloe, a native of Detroit, Michigan, first joined the Army in 1990 at the age of 17 — inspired by his uncle’s service.
“[My uncle] was a green beret and came home one day in his dress green uniform and looked really sharp,” he said. “We went to church that Sunday where they recognized him and gave him a standing ovation. He looked really fit and in shape and told me if I wanted to be like him, I needed to go infantry.”
So, that’s what he did.
Kinchloe completed Infantry One Station Unit Training in 1990 at Fort Benning, Georgia, and went on to serve in various positions all over the world for the next decade.
He left the Army in 2001 to pursue a career in law enforcement. He served with the Forest City Park Police Department in Forest City Park, Georgia — a suburb of Atlanta — before becoming a contractor for the U.S. Marshals Service in 2010. Today, he serves as a federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security.
His initial basic training experience and decade of service in the Army prepared him for those careers, he said.
“When I got to the police department and then the rest of my jobs, I was always looking back at those hard times like when I had to stay in the field when my boots and socks were wet and I couldn't do anything about it,” he said. “Being in situations like that made me realize that I can make it through a lot of tough things.”
He also looked back at those times and wanted to complete his 20 years of service in the Army. Two years ago, a coworker of his mentioned the National Guard as a possibility for accomplishing this. So, he talked to a recruiter who said he needed to complete his 20 years by the time he was 60 — at the time he was 48.
After lengthy consideration and discussions with his wife, Kinchloe said he decided to go for it. He enlisted in the South Carolina National Guard on July 26, 2021 and reported to his unit the same day.
“I was on the phone with my wife right before the first formation,” he said. “When I saw them in uniform, it got real. I hadn’t been in a formation in 21 years.”
It was over a year before he made it to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood.
Being around a younger generation of Soldiers has been positive, Kinchloe said.
“It’s been a good time and the kids motivated me,” he said. “They say I motivate them, but they motivate me. I saw my 17-year-old self in these kids, and it's been an honor to watch them transition from civilians … into actual Soldiers.”
Kinchloe’s ability to adapt to the basic training environment was the one trait cadre said they wished every trainee could bring to the table.
“He came in, he was quiet, and he learned,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Sheldon, senior drill sergeant with Co. D, 2-10 Inf. Reg. “He’s done everything that we've asked him to with no complaints. The other trainees have no complaints, and he’s up there teaching his peers, which is something I wish all the trainees would do.”
For anyone else who might be considering coming back to the Army, Kinchloe, who maintained one of the best physical training scores in the company, had some advice.
“Get in shape – really, really good shape,” he said. “Basic training shape is a little different than regular people shape.”
After graduation, Kinchloe will head back to South Carolina to continue his career as a federal agent. He said he wouldn’t change anything about the last two decades of his life.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “Looking back, I would do the same thing.”