Boots Over Beaches: ARS senior shares experience at basic training for the United States Army Reserves

Members+of+Villalpondo%27s+battery+complete+their+daily+exercises+in+the+morning.+

Members of Villalpondo's battery complete their daily exercises in the morning.

Myra Noralez, Sammie Seamon, Erin Lungwitz

Unlike many students who spent time at the beach or on Netflix, an ARS senior spent eleven weeks of her summer at basic training in Oklahoma for the United States Army Reserves. 

“I had asked a lot of people if I should do it and they were like, ‘You’re a girl, you shouldn’t do it….and I was like, ‘Now I’m definitely going to do it,’ ” said senior Maria Villalpando.

Every week day Maria woke up at either 3:30 AM or 4:30 AM before undergoing physical training, eating a meal, and then marching or practicing her rifle skills at the range.

“On the weekends we got a break, sort of, not really,” said Villalpando. “On Saturdays we got up at five, formation was at 5:30.”

Maria said her training was mentally challenging. Many of her peers struggled with the mental aspects of the army, especially when it came to bouncing back after making a mistake; however, Maria learned to have a positive attitude, and came back from her experience with more confidence.

“There’s people that they would mess up and get screamed at by the drill sergeant, and that would ruin the rest of their time there…,” said Villalpando. “You have to learn how to wake up in a positive mindset and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to try and do better today. If I mess up, if I get screamed at, oh well, it happens.’ “

The army experience made Maria realize how many day-to-day activities and choices she took for granted.

“You learn to appreciate the little things, like what you get to eat everyday or the fact that you get to wear your hair the way you want, so it builds you up… and you appreciate more when you come back. “

She is required to go back to Military Occupation Specialties training in Virginia next summer, but in the meantime Maria will meet with her drill sergeant once a month during the school year and maintain her physical health and fitness.

“They [the military] teach you how to be a better person,” said Maria. “…You start to appreciate your freedom a lot, and you start to appreciate the people in your life.”