LAUREL — Devin Eisenhauer and Branden Meyer spent their summer trekking eight miles at a time with a 60-pound bag on their backs, as well as getting up at 4 a.m. to belly crawl while dodging live bullets.
The two Laurel-Concord-Coleridge High School seniors grin as they recall the 12 weeks they spent in basic training for the Army National Guard at Fort Benning, Ga., with intense physical training, arms training including throwing grenades, and field training exercises with nothing more than what they carried in on their backs.
“I wore these boots during it and I still have blood from the heel I couldn’t get out,” Eisenhauer said.
Eisenhauer, Coleridge, and Meye, Laurel, completed their basic training in different platoons but in the same company, seeing each other every day.
While it was physically difficult they were prepared for much worse.
“I was prepared for more serious stuff and then I thought, ‘OK, this isn’t too bad but it’s still pretty bad,’ ” Meyer said.
Land navigation was Meyer’s personal favorite while Eisenhauer enjoyed launching grenades. Both will never forget their “NIC at Night” or the Night Infiltration Course described by Eisenhauer as “pitch black except for rounds flying over your head.”
They saw first-hand how the physical and mental aspects of training could get to some of the trainees with not everyone graduating in Eisenhauer’s platoon.
“As long as you put your mind to it, you can complete basic. As long as you don’t quit, they’ll make sure you’ll pass,” he said.
Eisenhauer said he wanted to join the Army since he was about 5 years old. Most recently, his cousin, Gage Chinn of Wayne, went through basic training and it solidified his decision to also join.
Meyer said his reason for joining the military has everything to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
He hadn’t been born yet when it happened but just the impact of watching the footage on the anniversaries of that tragic day have left quite an impact.
“I did not want that to happen again,” he said. “I wanted to join the unique group of people that were the U.S. military.”
Meyer said he would like to serve with the Army for at least 20 years and also wants to pursue a career in law enforcement with the Nebraska State Patrol.
Eisenhower is also considering a law enforcement career.
But first they need to graduate high school and then go back to Fort Benning to complete an additional 12 weeks of infantry training and then three weeks of airborne school.
They’re prepared for wherever the Army takes them from there.
“If there’s a war, we’re going,” Meyer said. “If there’s a hurricane, we’re going.”
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