Top 5 Things I Learned From NROTC

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While in Villanova, I was in NROTC (Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps). 'Nova, at that time, had the largest NROTC unit in the country with about 225+ midshipmen and midshipwomen. Both my brother in laws were Naval Academy graduates in 1990, one was an officer on a "boomer" (nuclear missile submarine) and the other was an officer on a "Oliver Hazard Perry" class frigate. Both told me about the best qualities of being a naval midshipmen: leadership, responsibility and getting laid like a champ. Come on. With movies like "Officer and a Gentleman" and "Top Gun" on heavy rotation on local cable channels, it was getting naval recruits laid across the country faster than you could say "I got no where else to go!" or "I feel the need. The need for speed." My parents were very supportive also. At first I thought it was because they liked the idea of military training to instill a sense of discipline into their half-feral child. It quickly dawned upon me that the money they would save was probably the real motivating factor. I joined NROTC on a whim, actually. It was my first day of school, and we were walking around the campus and they were handing out flyers. I spoke to some of the midshipmen, and the officers and they were extremely friendly - even the Marine enlisted Gunnery Sergeant was smiling and chatting amiably. I was a fairly easy sell - the only downside is that since I joined late I didn't have a scholarship I would pay my own way for the first 2 years of school and if I made "Advanced Standing" in my junior year I would get a partial scholarship for my final two years. Once I graduated I would be a commissioned officer. In some respects, i'm happy I joined - I instantly had 225+ friends on campus in the unit. On the other hand, what a dreadful way to begin college.
Everyone else for the first week of school were partying their asses off. Me? I was waking up every morning at 5:30am for Villanova's version of boot camp. Boot Camp lasted for 8 weeks. Monday, Wednesday, Friday was PT (Physical Training), and Tuesday and Thursday was "Drill" (we learn how to march as a unit). I was there by 6am and left at 8am. Every single morning - you were late and you may as well not even show up. Oh yea - I said "may as well" you "mind as well" haters. It was grueling stuff. The formerly "nice" people we met were replace with some very angry young men who shouted insults at us non-stop. They would get in our face, screaming, yelling and belligerently asking us questions. Each freshman unit was in a different company - Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta. We had about 80 freshman at the beginning of the program, which was knocked to about 50 by the end. Here are the top 5 things I learned in NROTC: 1. Sarcasm and the military don't work well together. For the first, say, 3 weeks of NROTC I was, like every other freshman, scared shitless. But, as time progressed, everyone started to relax a bit, and I started to make some extremely candid comments to my superior officer "Mr. Fort" - who was a 27 year old college senior, previously enlisted in the Navy - who returned on a scholarship to become an officer. He worked in Florsheim shoes part-time. I have no doubt he hated every kid at Villanova - since the majority of kids who went there were from fairly well-off families with snotty attitudes and privlidged lives. He was cruel and mean to every kid in the program. He made girls cry and would laught at them. So, I tortured him back. To this day, I don't remember what I said, but basically everything that came out of my mouth drove him insane and had the rest of the freshman trying to control their laughter. On a scale of 1 to 10 for sarcasm levels, I scored a 63. Once boot camp was over I caught him working at his store in the mall and made him (in front of his boss) scurry around and get a bunch of shoes for me making silly comments like "No, these make my ankles look fat!", "Do you sell tap dancing shoes?", "I need a fresh shoe horn". I spent a solid hour trying on crappy dress shoes which I had no intention of buying. I think it was pleasant revenge on that dweeb. 2. Having a uniform doesn't make you that much sexier. There was a fellow freshman in my unit named "George". He was italian, about 5'3 feet tall, a slightly pudgy build, and his face reminded me of a rat (with his rat-like teeth, beady eyes and his poor excuse of a mustache). One day George meets a sweet girl who lived at St. Mary's dormatories. He decided, on a romantic whim, to serenade her. He got someone to play guitar, dressed up in his naval uniform and sung to her from under her window. This easily could have been one of the most embarassing displays of affection I have ever witnessed in my life. You know when you see something so embarassing it makes your stomach turn and you have to curl up and cringe? This was a train wreck. The girls were howling with laughter at the poor girl he was trying to warble his lyrics to - plus the little rat-like man who was singing to her in the midshipmen NROTC uniform. George, to his credit, finished the song, but he did break down and cried over it. The pansy. 3. You want to get in shape? Join the miliary. I may have complained about how much they kicked our asses, but at the end of 8 weeks of working out 3 days a week I was in the best shape of my life. These are like having government trained special forces personal trainers - the workouts were non-stop and we never lifted a weight. Running, jumping, rolling, pushups, situps, crunches, and jumping jacks. 4. Brainwashing works! After 8 weeks of training I was having very vivid nightmares of being late for PT, talking in my sleep - scaring my roommates by screaming "Sir! Yes! Sir!". One day, while I was coming home from dinner I see a fellow midshipman pounding on my door at 6:30pm. It was fall, and dark out, and he was obviously panicked yelling, "Furey! We are late for PT! FUREY! WAKE UP!" I calmed him down and explained it was "PM" not "AM". He was taking a nap, woke up and saw his clock saying "6:30" and thought that we were late for PT (we were neighbors and would make sure that if one of us overslept that the other would wake the other guy). 5. Remember to "Jibe Ho!". They taught us how to sail in NROTC, which was kind of cool. We were on little sailboats, which were designed for 2 people. One would work the sails and the other worked the rudder. Part of working that tandem meant that if the tiller man were to change direction, with the wind at stern (rear), he would call out "prepare to jibe". This meant that he was going to move his rudder to cause the wind to catch the sail, and move the boom in the other direction. The boom is kind of dangerous to the second person - because it can smack them in the head and knock them into the water. We had a race in Boston, on the Charles River. A few NROTC groups were there that day, and it was for fun. One of the guys from Boston College says "Ok, if you fall in the Charles, just make sure you don't get any of that nasty water in your mouth. Keep your mouth shut." After describing all of this, can you imagine what my fellow tiller-man didn't shout during the race and what instructions I forgot during this accident? The horror....the horror. That was the last time I sailed. I also was brushing my teeth every other hour for a week. For my first two years of NROTC at Villanova, I believe that it was a good experience. I made some great friends in NROTC - and because of them I joined my fraternity, Delta Tau Delta. Sadly, in 1992, President Bush made some budget cuts and the program had to be scaled back. 80% midshipmen across the country, who were not on scholarship, were cut from the program. I found this out the spring of 1992, my hopes were crushed for becoming a Naval Officer. Interesting thing is that I entered Villanova as a business major and switched to liberal arts because of the NROTC program. My reasoning was that the Navy 4 year tour would have been the equivalent of getting a MBA and I could have joined plenty of businesses after I graduated with my liberal arts degree backed up with Naval experience. My parents, who felt bad for me (and their pocketbooks) suggested that I study abroad in Europe....which you can read about here: Travel Around Europe Vietre Di Potenza The Exchange Part 1 and Part 2

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on April 12, 2005 8:43 AM.

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