Beyond Playing Defense

Beyond Playing Defense

Pacific defensive lineman Caleb Wistock left school after his sophomore season, traded his books for a rifle and took on the toughest internship a student could have: basic training in the United States Army. (Originally published Oct. 16, 2012)

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While many of his friends were pulling themselves out of bed just before their 9 a.m. Monday class, Caleb Wistock rose every day of last spring's semester at 4 a.m.
 
Before he could shake the blurriness from his eyes, he was out the door. Whether running, lifting weights or doing sit-ups and push-ups, Wistock and his teammates went through day after day of grueling physical training. Every day. Before breakfast.
 
The rest of the day was spent in combinations of classroom training and field experience. As a sophomore, Wistock was receiving job training unlike the kind that any of his Pacific University classmates will ever have the chance to receive. He learned the customs and courtesies, received professional qualifications for his future career and even had the chance to throw a grenade or two.
 
Doing more before 8 a.m. than his classmates did in a whole day? You bet.
 
If you haven't figured it out by now, Wistock's sophomore spring semester was not on the Pacific University campus, but was a study abroad experience like none other. The site was Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where Wistock went through the rigors of basic training for the United States Army.
 
A member of a family with a long line of veterans, Wistock made the unusual decision to take last spring semester off and enlist in the Army. He spent the spring in basic training before spending the summer of 2012 at Fort Lee, Va., for additional occupational training.
 
The idea of leaving school for a term to join the Army seemed unusual to many of Wistock's professors and friends, but it was all part of a well thought out plan.
 
“Some thought it was a dumb decision. They looked at me as if I was giving up on school and going into the Army,” Wistock said. “They didn't understand that I was intending on coming back the whole time. I have a lot of family who have gone into the military and figured it was my time.”
 
A CAREER DECISION
The idea of being a military man was not unusual in the Wistock family home of Stayton, a community of nearly 8,000 located east of Salem. Both Caleb's father and uncle had served in the Marine Corps and his grandfather served in the Air Force. Caleb remembers spending much of his childhood playing Marines and knew early on that he would be in the military at some point in his life.
 
After coming to Pacific to play football, Caleb and his father discussed what would set him up for the best possible career. Many military-bound college graduates move right into officer training with the chance to move up the ranks quickly. But such officers often lack the field experience, making it tougher for them to gain the respect of the men they're charged to lead.
 
“My dad was an enlisted guy and he told me, 'If you want to do this, you want to be an officer after going through college.' But a lot of the non-commissioned officers I talked to said the best officers are the ones who have come through the enlisted ranks,” Wistock said. “So to be the best leader, I figured that I should start at the bottom. That way I am giving orders and leading men in a place where I have come from, because I was that guy.”
 
In essence, Wistock will have the best of both worlds. He will serve in the Army Reserve for the duration of his college career, attending drills with his unit one weekend a month and for two weeks over the summer. During that time, Wistock will also be able to move up in rank, pay and benefits. After graduation, projected for December 2014, Wistock will be eligible for officer's training while having done his time in the enlisted ranks.