Answering The Call

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In a time of international uncertainty and instability, securing the nation’s safety is urgent, and students at Valley have stepped up to the challenge. However, answering the call of duty is no easy task, and demands everything you’ve got.
Senior Connor Collins envisioned himself joining the military ever since he was a child.
“I’ve always had the notion that I was going to be in the military, one way or another,” Collins said.
Collins signed a 6-year contract with the Air National Guard in Morgantown, West Virginia, but that wasn’t always what he imagined doing in the military.
“For a while I thought I was going to be a Navy SEAL and I watched a lot of Top Gun, so I thought I wanted to fly,” Collins said.
As part of his contract, Collins begins training immediately after graduation. Like Collins, Senior Connor Davis begins training not long after graduation. To prepare for the Marine Corps boot camp, Davis has elected to spend every Wednesday doing physical training with other “poolees,” a term used to describe those who are members of the Delayed Entry Program. The Delayed Entry Program (DEP) allows potential recruits to get a taste of the military and prepare for boot camp.
For a more extensive preparation program, some apply to military academies to fulfill their training. These institutions attract hopefuls from across the nation, and senior Caroline Morrow was one of them. After receiving her congressional nomination from Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Morrow went on to send her applications and visit the academy, fulfilling her longtime goal of becoming one of the chosen few.
“I’d say I’ve wanted to go to West Point since I was about ten,” Morrow said.
Ever since women have been allowed to serve direct combat roles, students like Morrow have a multitude of options in the military. Morrow hopes to do something big for herself and her country.
“I’d say since I was about seven I actually wanted to go into the navy first before the army. It was actually kind of funny how this whole thing worked out because at that time, women were barred from a lot of combat positions,” Morrow said.
Prior to applying to the university, Morrow was given the chance to taste the cadet life at West Point’s “Summer Leaders Experience” camp. During her time there, the sergeants and staff treated them to an authentic cadet experience, full of bugle reveille, late night training and the barking of drill sergeants.
“You never really know something until you’re in it, and this summer, I had the opportunity to go to West Point and live like a cadet for a week.” Morrow said. “I went into it thinking I would know everything about West Point and that it wouldn’t be a shock to the system… but there were some things that surprised me. Some nights, we didn’t get back to the barracks until 12.”
What first introduced Morrow to West Point was her family’s deep connection with the institution. Her grandfather taught as a math professor at the university so her mother grew up on the military base there. The tradition of family in the military is one that inspires many to join. Davis is the latest in a long line of family members to join the Marines. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all members of the Marine Corps. His father was member of the Force Recon company, which conducts military reconnaissance operations, and was deployed nine times in Iraq.
“I had a lot of people in my family who inspired me to join the military,” Davis said.
Others without a family connection have also been attracted to service in the armed forces. Senior Noah Hunter enlisted in the Marine Corps last year, and will undergo boot camp training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Hunter decided to join in his junior year, not wanting to put off his career for four years by attending a university. He made his decision largely on his own, wishing to serve his country and begin his training as soon as possible.
“My parents probably thought I was going to go to college my freshman and sophomore year…[but] I just enlisted,” Hunter said. “No one really pushed me to do it, but I’d say my biggest influence since I’ve been enlisted…was probably my recruiter.”
Junior Joel Weiss also plans to enter the Delayed Entry Program, but that hasn’t prevented him from doing other training. Weiss aims to be a Navy SEAL, who are among the most well-respected and well-known fighting forces in the world. Last summer, Weiss participated in a camp operated by former Special Forces soldiers designed to give teenagers who aspire to be SEALs a glimpse of what actual military training is like.
“They didn’t treat you like you were a kid, they treated you like you were actually going into the military,” Weiss said.
While at the camp, he and other SEAL hopefuls practiced their shooting skills, conducted mock reconnaissance missions and participated in many other drills. However, for Weiss, one night sticks out vividly: they call it Hell Night.
“We went to bed at nine, which was early, and then at ten they woke us up by throwing fireworks in our tents,” Weiss said.
After being forced to flee their tents, the camp attendees were commanded to do burpees for an hour in sand pits filled with sulfur smoke, in addition to hundreds of pushups, and miles of running.
However, none of this dissuaded Weiss from wanting to become a SEAL. In fact, he is very confident that he will one day achieve his dream.
“I’m not trying to be cocky, but I’m not going to quit. They’d have to kill me first,” Weiss said

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