Trading Greek life for grenades

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Arroyo playing in the Army vs. Navy soccer game. (photo provided by Marcos Arroyo)

2014 graduate Marcos Arroyo continues to excel on the field, in soccer and as a soldier.

Sitting in a bunker watching classmates throw grenades, eyes wide with fear and fumbling with explosives is not exactly a traditional college initiation, but, for West Point Sophomore Marcos Arroyo, this was all part of the commitment.

The first step is basic training, which is when new students have the opportunity to learn about military combat training. Recruits, however, sometimes have to work on instilling confidence when working with machinery. One of Arroyo’s classmates learned this when training with live grenades.

“This girl strikes her pose, and they say ‘throw,'” Arroyo said. “She ends up throwing it no more than five feet, and the instructor just tackles her into the pit.”

No one was injured, but Arroyo learned very early on about the pressure associated with West Point. Arroyo is currently in his second year at the United States Military Academy, West Point, has learned to adapt to the lifestyle and in his academic and athletic career.

Marcos described his freshman year at West Point as a culture shock, especially coming the relaxed culture of Florida.

“I would look out of my room during basic training and freshman year and just see people marching or the flag being brought up and down, and I would just be like ‘Where in the world am I?’” Arroyo said.

Arroyo has found ways to adapt.

He has found some shortcuts to save time like sleeping with his bed made and has had to adapt to all types of food,” mother Doris Arroyo said.

Freshmen are also required to do certain things like clench their hands in fists when outside, walk against the wall opposite of the doors and tend to duties such as laundry and trash.

During his senior year of high school, Arroyo never pictured himself in such a different world. He looked at Stanford University, Holy Cross College, University of North Florida and Brown University. While visiting Stanford, Arroyo asked soccer team members what their plans were for after college and their uncertainty led him to choose a path that would provide a degree and job security after graduation.

“Initially [attending West Point] was pretty much based on the benefits that I would get out of it: free school, good education, free healthcare and weighed that with soccer,” Arroyo said.

Marcos credits much of his success to his junior and senior year physics and math teachers. He was able to earn enough credits to allow him to start his major classes a year earlier.

“During my class he learned to pay attention to detail, remember and see the connections within the concepts and embrace the struggle,” calculus teacher Carolyn Guzman said.

Arroyo, who visited the leadership class during his Thanksgiving break, talked to leadership students about his experiences and was able to explain how he has applied leadership skills at the college level.

“The leadership class filled up my resume more than anything else and set me up to talk to people in higher positions, write resumés and emails,” Arroyo said.

He was also able to connect with fellow leadership students, who had been in the class with him and experienced his style of leadership.

“He did everything in his power to get the word out and promote [Zumba for the Heart] so it would be successful,” senior Tania Imani said. “It was literally five minutes before the event started and he was still promoting.”

Having that background has helped Arroyo to learn to balance academics and military requirements with soccer.

“It’s definitely worth it,” Arroyo said. “Soccer is like my sanctuary and time away from all the crazy stuff going on campus and the guys are all really close.”

Arroyo will be signing his affirmation at the beginning of his junior year, meaning that he will officially be committing to being commissioned as a second lieutenant and going into the Army for five years in the branch of his choice. Since enrolling at West Point, Arroyo has changed which branch he would like to go into.

“Being at West Point has made me feel like I am a part of something that is bigger than myself,” Arroyo said. “I want to do infantry because I know I can make the right decision under pressure and save lives.”

Arroyo is majoring in physics which is not only an interest, but something that he feels has many educational and job opportunities such as research in the military. Another option would be to earn his degree and pursue a masters engineering or specialized physics.

Going into his junior year, Arroyo is prepared to make a mark on West Point, with the same attitude he has always had.

“He was a positive influence and I always picture him with a grin on his face,” Leadership teacher Kari Miller said. “He has enthusiasm for special projects and everyday life.”

Arroyo showed this video to students so that they could gain a visual understanding of West Point.

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