By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – For a college senior, the month of May is an exciting yet hectic time—between studying for finals, trying to enjoy the weather, planning for graduation and searching for that first full-time job, there isn’t a lot of free time left over. For Green Bay softball senior Paige Newtols (Green Bay, Wis.), the item at the top of her to-do list in the month of May has been preparing for the tough and demanding challenge she’ll face just two weeks after graduation—basic training for the U.S. Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Newtols will spend nine weeks at the southwestern Oklahoma base nestled in the Wichita Mountains where average temperatures for the summer months range from the low- to mid-90s and can achieve readings of 110 degrees or higher. She’ll be pushed to the limit both physically and mentally while learning important tasks such as rifle marksmanship, squad movements, Army history and courtesies and countless others all while working as a member of a team.
She’ll wake up well before the sun rises each day and run hundreds of miles during her time there with a few thousand pushups mixed in. She’ll throw live hand grenades, receive hands-on training with a variety of machine guns, learn hand-to-hand combat skills and even experience CS gas as part of gas mask training. With cell phones confiscated upon arrival, her only means of communication with the outside world will be through writing letters and the occasional brief phone call home. She’ll receive three meals per day, but meals you wouldn’t exactly find in mom’s kitchen.
Before Newtols knows it, however, the nine-week journey will come to a close as she proudly marches across a parade field as a basic training graduate.
“Since coming to college I’ve been more appreciative of the things I have in my life and the people that have made sacrifices for me to have these things,” Newtols said. “I wanted to do something that really meant something and allowed me to make a difference, so this seemed like the right choice.”
Following nine weeks of basic training at Fort Sill, Newtols will travel to Fort Sam Houston in Texas where she’ll receive job-specific training. With a bachelor’s of science degree in biology from UW-Green Bay, she’ll put her education to use as she receives a few months of training to become a combat medic.
“The choice to be a medic was pretty easy because it relates to my degree and it’s something I can use in the civilian world after my military career, too,” Newtols said. “Since I have a degree it would be pretty easy for me to become an officer after a few years of service, and officers in the medical field of the Army are always in demand.”
Other than a grandfather who served in the Korean War, Newtols is the first in two generations of her family to join the military. Shortly after she joined, one of her cousins also decided to enlist.
“I guess it’s kind of becoming a family thing for us,” Newtols joked. “I’m definitely going to miss my family while I’m there, and my mom gets worried at times. I have great parents so I always try to make them proud, and I think they’re happy for me and really proud of my decision to enlist.”
Newtols recently wrapped up her career with the Green Bay softball team and finished in the top 10 in multiple categories of the program’s career record list. A career .276 hitter, she finished 10th in batting average and ninth with five career home runs. She also tied for the fifth-most walks after tying the program’s single-season record with 26 in the 2012 season.
She appeared in 14 games with 12 starts during the 2013 campaign, driving in four runs with a perfect fielding percentage. As the team played its home opener on May 4 in honor of those fighting breast cancer, she had the honor of catching the ceremonial first pitch. Newtols believes her time with the program and working with her teammates will set her up for success in her military career.
“Being a member of the softball team for four years will help because it’s taught me how to work with all types of people and be successful, and the training I did with the team will put me ahead of my peers in my career,” Newtols said. “Everyone on the team has been very supportive of my decision and thinks it’s a really cool idea.”
Although she’s only in the beginning stages of her military career, she would like to remain in the Army for at least 20 years before retiring and pursuing civilian opportunities in the medical field. As she makes her way through basic training and her career, she’ll hold close the memories she made and experiences she had with her teammates of the Green Bay softball program.
“For me this season was about having fun, trying to battle the weather and still win a few games. At the same time it was by far the most fun I’ve ever had with my teammates,” Newtols said. “I’m so greatful I was able to be a student-athlete at this level, but I’m excited to take this next step and can’t wait to get down to Oklahoma and start my military career.”
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