Join the club: Teens train together for military careers

Published Wednesday, March 28, 2018
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Feel the Burn

FEEL THE BURN – Boyd High School students who have enlisted in various branches of the military work out together before school to prepare for their respective boot camps this summer. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

When Cruz Montes decided to join the National Guard, he held some reservations.

The Boyd powerlifter knew he could meet the strength requirements but was concerned about meeting the stringent weight limits and the time limit on the running portion of the physical fitness test.

“I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to meet the cardio standards. I could do push-ups all day,” Montes recalled.

He soon found a helping hand on campus with retired Army officer and Boyd ISD Director of College and Career Readiness James McDonald. McDonald started putting Montes and a group of fellow seniors, who soon enlisted in various branches of the military, through workouts several times per week.

With most already signed up to ship out this summer for basic training, the workouts continue so they’ll be in peak shape before arriving.

“It started with four boys, and they got the bug to enlist in the National Guard because of all the money for school,” McDonald said. “They had some concerns about making height and weight. That’s easy. We can fix that. Let’s start meeting in the morning and working out. It started with four boys, and they started talking with their friends and it grew from there.”

Now the group has as many as 11 show up at Boyd High School at 6:45 a.m. to work out. Along with the enlisted seniors, the group known as the Military Fitness Club has attracted a sophomore.

The workouts are varied ,with a lot of running and calisthenics and with weight lifting.

“We do a mixture of body building, strength training and conditioning. He’ll split it into upper and lower days,” Montes said.

On cardio days, they run three miles as opposed to the two miles that are part of the fitness test. Montes said it helps them get in better shape.

McDonald said he modified workouts at first until the members developed their conditioning, specifically for the cardio work.

“They could do push-ups, but to do them for two minutes continuously, that was tough,” McDonald said.

“As we’ve gone on, I’ve been able to add and increase the intensity.”

Every exercise is performed to the military’s strict standards.

The workouts have paid off, with members passing their fitness tests and also outperforming fellow enlistees when reporting for drills.

“For the Army National Guard, we do drill weekends where we are put up against people from all the different areas but still in our region,” Montes said. “We do our PT test, and we are usually top five or 10. That consists of one minute of push-ups, one minute of sit-ups and a one-mile run.”

The group meets three days per week. McDonald said they would meet five if it was up to the them.

Along with seeing the students succeed and pass their fitness tests, McDonald has enjoyed seeing the support they show each other. That was demonstrated over Christmas break when they came out to support Tommy Tilson on his fitness assessment for the Air Force.

“There’s typical interbranch rivalry,” McDonald said. “But this group is really tight-knit, which is one of the things I really appreciate.”

Jorge Estrada, the lone Marine in the group, said: “Though I’m in the Marine Corps and I’m surrounded by National Guardsmen, at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.”

These seniors were seventh graders at Boyd Middle School when McDonald became the principal at the campus. He’s proud of their success, pointing out they all scored well enough on tests to set them up with any job they want in the military.

“They’re a special group,” McDonald said. “They will be tough to replace.”

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