Joining the ranks

Freshman David Perry said he experienced more than “grueling mental and physical training” during the 18-hour days he spent training at the Quantico Marine Corps Base this summer. The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program taught him how to respect and be respected, but most of all it connected him with his mentor, senior Elliot Simpson.

While Perry spent his days during freshman orientation marching, running and learning the intricacies of military life, Simpson sharpened his memorization skills and completed obstacle courses in the senior Officer Candidate School program. As a senior, Simpson was able to lead a “shocked” Perry during freshman orientation.

“I remember when I got here as a freshman I was at the bottom of the totem pole like Perry,” Simpson said. “When you’re a freshman you don’t know what’s going on. Your classes are demanding, and the experience is overwhelming. The program builds confidence, makes you a stronger person, educates you and ultimately equips you for university life.”

Simpson said his favorite part of the program was “motivating and inspiring the freshmen.”

“It’s really cool to watch the freshman learn and grow,” he said.

Lieutenant Kate Meeuf, an assistant professor of naval science, said the freshman orientation program is a chance for seniors to help train freshman, but it also strengthens academic skills. The tasks the midshipmen complete over the summer help them throughout their academic career, she said.

For Perry, the experience not only helped integrate him into NROTC life, but college life as well.

“By being in a program that emphasizes discipline, leadership, respect and time management, I definitely believe that I’ve strengthened my character,” Perry said. “And that’s all the more valuable as a college student as I interact with professors and other adults.”

Perry sometimes attends class in his NROTC polo paired with khakis, and sometimes he “mixes things up” by wearing his camouflage uniform during training. “Most of the time we just wear a T-shirt and running shorts for physical training,” he said while catching a breath after a long night of NROTC activities.

For Simpson, his training throughout the years has instilled in him a sense of loyalty. “It’s hard to let others down – we build a lot of respect for our superiors and it’s always a bad feeling to disappoint them.”

Although Simpson said he enjoyed training Perry during the summer, his mentorship must follow strict guidelines according to NROTC rules. Simpson will always hold the role of leader, with Perry as the follower.

“Perry and I aren’t buddies by any means,” Simpson said. “He can’t see that watching him become stronger and grow as a midshipman is the most rewarding thing for me.”

Perry and Simpson’s summer programs were also structured differently. The freshman program aims to instill three things: knowledge, discipline and respect. It will serve as a base for the rest of Perry’s NROTC training throughout his collegiate career, he said.

“If you don’t know the answer to something an officer asks you, you always tell them you will find out – you never say ‘I don’t know,’ ” he said.

While Perry’s orientation was only one week, the senior Officer Candidate School lasted six weeks. It is a prestigious program that teaches leadership, tactical classes and memorization skills.

Simpson said, “Perry may have felt good about completing freshman orientation, but he still has a long way to go.”

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