GREENVILLE — In five days, Greenville resident Melissa Temerowski will be on a plane to South Carolina, where she will begin her basic training in the U.S. Army at Fort Jackson.
Unlike many fresh recruits, however, Temerowski will be entering the service as a private first class, thanks to the Future Soldier program.
According to Staff Sgt. Kenneth VanHouten, leader of the program for the Greenville Recruiting Center, the Future Soldier program gives enlistees a chance to get a jump start on their military careers.
“Future Soldiers are those young men and women who have made the commitment to service, but have not yet reported to basic training,” VanHouten said. “While they are waiting to attend training, Future Soldiers have the opportunity to begin their careers above and beyond their peers by completing an advanced training curriculum solely through their own efforts and desire to succeed.”
Those efforts take many forms, but much of the training comes from online classes in subjects such as navigation, military history and learning the phonetic alphabet. The physical component consists of passing the Army’s physical fitness test.
Finally, the recruits take part in a brief seminar on handling the financial responsibilities they will face as they leave home and family for military life.
“It’s basically just to teach them how to handle their money,” VanHouten said. “And we also go over family team building; how to blend family life with the military lifestyle.”
Though all these things help recruits ready for life with Uncle Sam, there’s still an element of the unknown for even the most prepared.
Temerowski admits she’s a bit apprehensive to be leaving home in just five days, but hopes her extra effort now will make the transition to military life easier.
“I’m nervous, yeah, but looking forward to it,” Temerowski said.
Temerowski’s father, Paul Temerowski, said he was “extremely proud” to see his daughter going off to serve in the Army.
“This is our second daughter to enlist,” he said. “Melissa’s sister is already serving.”
On Tuesday, many area notables, including Greenville Mayor John Hoppough, gathered to honor Future Soldier graduates at the Greenville Area Community Center.
Hoppough said he felt fortunate to be able to hear and speak with the graduates and admonished them to “do the right thing” during their time in the military.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Denny Craycraft, captain of the honor guard at Belding VFW Post 4406.
“Forty-six years ago I was standing right where you guys are now, with no idea what I was going to do,” Craycraft told the recruits. “You’re going to learn a lot, but there’s one thing you’re all going to have to remember — your recruiter’s name and phone number, because you’re all going to want to talk to them when you get out.”
Craycraft grew more serious as he continued to speak to the young recruits gathered at the center.
“When you’re in the service, you’ve taken on something you may not even realize yet,” he said. “What you are now is a vet, and that’s one of the most important things you can be today. You’re going to be ambassadors of our country when you go overseas. When you get back you will take that uniform off and rejoin the ranks of civilians, but you’ll never take the title of veteran off.
“You’re going to find you have a brotherhood, a family, you may not even understand right now. But it’s a bond you will never forget and it is very important.”
In all, 10 recruits graduated Tuesday from the Future Soldier program. In addition to Temerowski, graduates included Garrett Fleming of Rockford, Benjamin Martin of Ionia, Christian Mathewson of Belding, Alex Maxted of Sidney, Benjamin Nauta of Rockford, Thomas Neff of Fremont, Jeff Ridgeway of Stanton, Jacob Tanner of Lakeview, Morgan Vickery of Saranac and Joseph Webster of Ionia.
Not long ago, these men and women were high school students. In a matter of days or weeks, they will be soldiers in the U.S. Army.