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Flying Razorback Profile: Staff Sgt. Garry Butler

Staff Sgt. Garry Butler, a religious affairs specialist with the 188th Wing’s Chaplain Office, delivers an inspirational video message for unit members January 12, 2020, at Ebbing ANG Base, Arkansas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Matlock)

Staff Sgt. Garry Butler, a religious affairs specialist with the 188th Wing’s Chaplain Office, delivers an inspirational video message for unit members January 12, 2020, at Ebbing ANG Base, Arkansas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Matlock)

Staff Sgt. Garry Butler, a religious affairs specialist with the 188th Wing’s Chaplains Office, poses for a photo. In his civilian career, Butler serves as the  Coordinator of Student Development and a Greek Life Advisor for the University of Louisiana Monroe. (photo courtesy University of Louisiana Monroe)

Staff Sgt. Garry Butler, a religious affairs specialist with the 188th Wing’s Chaplains Office, poses for a photo. In his civilian career, Butler serves as the Coordinator of Student Development and a Greek Life Advisor for the University of Louisiana Monroe. (photo courtesy University of Louisiana Monroe)

EBBING AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ark. -- Service Before Self. There are few better exemplars of this Air Force core value than Staff Sgt. Garry Butler.

Butler, a religious affairs specialist with the 188th Wing Chaplains' Office, has made his life's guiding principle service to others and passing on the many opportunities he's been given.

Butler has seemingly landed himself in a position which allows him to explore service in all its many forms. As an Air National Guard member, he serves the state and nation in uniform. His religious affairs career field allows him to serve individual troops' faith needs. In his civilian career, Butler serves and mentors college students. As a son and father, he feels compelled to repay the opportunities his parents provided for him, and pass along those same opportunities to his children.

Butler was raised the oldest of four children. Though his family wasn't blessed with a lot of material wealth his parents and grandparents ensured each one learned to be grateful for what they had.

"Both of my parents worked three jobs just to provide for myself and my siblings," said Butler. "Knowing that my parents worked hard to provide for
us, and had a 'no excuses' mentality - whether they were sick, whether they were hurt, they went to work and provided."

That same work ethic has earned Butler accolades from 188th Wing chaplains. They laud his devotion to education and dedication to his fellow Airmen.

"Everyone who knows Staff Sgt. Butler is very positive with only good things to say about him," said Chaplain Herbert Hodde. "I have never heard anything negative. He's an excellent representation of what we stand for here."

Get him talking about himself, and like a magnet on a compass, Butler soon navigates the conversation back to serving others. It's only natural then, that Butler would begin his military career in the services field.

"I chose this path to serve my country," Butler said. "I know a lot of people say that, but my true passion is to serve others. After I earned my services 5-Level, I talked to the chaplain team about cross training to
become an assistant."

"He's constantly studying," said Chaplain Matt Garrison. "If he's not working his tail off to help somebody on base or to make sure we've got all our ducks in a row, then he's studying."

Butler earned a Master of Higher Education, and is currently pursuing two additional advanced degrees, a Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Higher Education. While tackling these degrees, he's also found time to advance in both his initial services and religious affairs career fields, as well as attend Airman Leadership School.

"I was always told to finish what I started," Butler explained. "I know it's a lot, but I just look at one semester at a time. I didn't realize I'd make it this far academically, but it's very rewarding to know that once I finish I'll be better prepared to serve other people and serve my family."

In his civilian career, Butler is the coordinator of student development and a Greek life advisor for the University of Louisiana Monroe. He began his education career as a health and physical education teacher in his hometown of North Little Rock, Arkansas.

"Originally my end goal was to become a university president, but I'm just trying to figure out life right now," he said. "Obtaining my divinity degree will open a lot of new doors as well. I plan on seeking a commission as a chaplain here with the 188th Wing."

His philosophy of continual self-improvement is simple: "I surround myself with those who are already in those positions I aspire to, and get some
guidance or mentoring to understand what I must do to become a better version of myself... but also as a support to others, which is what matters the most."

To manage all his competing ambitions, Butler keeps a tough and consistent schedule to make the most of the hours in his day - and yes, he still gets the same 24 hours as everyone else.

"I wake up every day at 4 a.m. and I go to sleep at around midnight; just to get the time that I need - whether that's with people, with God, with family or with students at work," Butler explains.

"We were all given a date of birth, but then we don't know when the end date is," he said. "We don't know when that last day may be. Because that last day may be today, it may be tomorrow, it may be 20 years from now. Use the time that you have because you'll never get it back."