Training For Military Life

Training For Military Life

by Susan Neuhalfen

“All my life I’ve wanted to be in the military,” said Lantana resident Jake Simonelli.

Jake is a junior at Guyer High School and a member of the ROTC program. After spending two summers at the Marine Military Academy (MMA), he was looking for a new challenge. He found it in the Extreme Military Challenge! (XMC) he attended in Battleground, Alabama, this summer.

“The atmosphere was definitely different and the training was more tactical,” said Jake. “If you really want to experience what it’s like in the military go to XMC, but be prepared. There’s nothing easy about the camp.”

His first two weeks were spent in basic training after which he earned the title of Cadet. He was elected to be the Guidon Bearer, in charge of holding the flag for the platoon, which is a great honor. He was also a senior leader for his platoon, which consisted of the youngest members in camp, some as young as 13. Though it was already challenging, he was responsible for getting the younger kids to hit the showers or get up in the morning, which sometimes put him in the position of being late.

“If you’re not ten minutes early, you’re late,” said Jake. “That’s how you get NO-GOs.”

A NO-GO includes 500 push-ups, 500 sit-ups and a 5-mile ruck march carrying a 40 lb. backpack. The average number of NO-GO would be 5-10 during a course, given either as a team or an individual.

Despite all of the challenges, Jake’s platoon still earned the title of Honor Platoon.

Based on his performance at Cadet Basic Training he could then progress to another type of training. He spent an additional 3 weeks in Cadet Ranger School. Ranger school is a very elite training course that is overseen by a U.S. Army Ranger who is incidentally in the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame. He had to be hand selected by the instructor to join the team. Out of 19 chosen, only 13 made it. Many were trying to drop out in the first 15 minutes.

“The physical aspect wasn’t a surprise to me, I was ready for that,” said Jake. “I was most excited about the classes and learning how to breech a building or sneak up on other groups.”

In Ranger classes they learn everything from advanced patrolling techniques to hiding, ambushing and how to get intel on missions. On one mission, they hid in the barracks and took over one group, then snuck up on the fire watch (people watching over the barracks) and eventually took over that, too.

“It’s hard to believe that such a small group of Rangers can take over an entire group like that,” said Jake.

When asked what was the most important thing he learned, he said it was respect for his parents. They were his motivation to keep going, even when things got tough.

“The military gives him a structure to his life,” said his father, Chris. “He thrives in that environment.”

Jake hopes to attend the Citadel, the military school his grandfather attended, after high school and continue a career in the military. In the meantime, he will definitely be going back to XMC for another summer.

“It’s a great camp and a great challenge,” said Jake. “ I’m excited to go back for Phase II of Cadet Ranger School and get my beret.”

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