Beyond Playing Defense

Beyond Playing Defense

Pacific defensive lineman Caleb Wistock left school after his sophomore season, traded his books for a rifle and took on the toughest internship a student could have: basic training in the United States Army. (Originally published Oct. 16, 2012)

Share this

After a period of “reception,” where recruits are prepared for basic training, Wistock's Army experience began with a shock and awe experience that he will never forget. On the first day, Wistock and 75 other recruits were loaded onto a windowless truck. They were subjected to a wild 20-minute ride with hard corners, sudden stops and plenty of bumps.
“No one said anything. Everyone was pretty scared,” Wistock said.
Once the ride stopped, two soldiers threw the trucks doors open. One blew a whistle, while the other issued profanity-laden orders for the recruits to quickly get out. Wistock waited patiently at the back while the rest of the company pushed through each other.
The systematic mental and physical training began right away.

“We got out and there were 45 drill sergeants lined up yelling, every one of them from the company,” Wistock said as he described the rite known in the Army as a “shark attack.”

“You have to sprint past them with your 75-pound duffle bag. You're weaving, they're yelling at you and then you finish and they tell you to fall in. Of course, no one knows what that means.”
The scene is truly organized chaos, designed to teach the recruits that they are no longer in control. Drill sergeants scream out orders, intentionally causing confusion and wearing the recruits down.

“We kept having to do push-ups or hold the duffle bags over our heads and do squats,” Wistock said. “It was only a 70-pound bag, but fatigue eventually gets to everyone.”
The physical load Wistock endured throughout basic training is directly tied to building mental toughness. The company rose at 4 a.m. to go through physical training, spent much of the day in training and took turns at night pulling guard duty.
In the end, only the strongest survive, and Wistock was among them. He and his company graduated from basic training in May 2012.

“I had never been to a military ceremony like that,” Wistock said. “People were in step together and everything looked very clean, like no other graduation I had seen before.”
While many frown on drawing parallels between the sport of football and visions of war, Wistock is convinced that his involvement in the sport, both at Pacific and at Stayton High School, prepared him with the tools he needed to survive basic training.
The training from the 2011 football season kept him in the physical shape he needed to make it through, but as basic went on, the intangibles taught by the sport became obvious.

“There were a lot of people who didn't know how to work as a team. They were out there on their own, doing it for themselves,” Wistock said. “But in the military you can't be on your own. We have to rely on other people to get through our tasks.
“In football there is a lot of camaraderie. We're all together to achieve a goal. It's the same way in the military. I like that.”
While he has yet to break into the starting lineup, Wistock has continued to play a key role as a back-up defensive lineman. Wistock made appearances in eight games in each the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
And between the practices, games and classes, he keeping his military commitment. He spent the Boxers' September 2012 bye week participating in a weekend drill at Joint Base Lewis McChord, near Tacoma, and he missed another drill in October for the Pacific Lutheran game, which he will make up in November.