It's a safe bet that Portage Area High School senior Paul Husar's past summer was a lot different than the one that was experienced by most young men and women his age.
While the vast majority of his contemporaries may have been holding down a summer job, vacationing at the beach or hanging out with friends at a local burger or ice cream joint, the 17-year-old Husar was arising before the crack of dawn six days a week to go through sit-up, push-up and pull-up drills before heading to the shooting range as part of his basic training for the United States Army Reserves.
Husar completed the U.S. Army Reserves' 10-week basic training course in late August at Fort Jackson, S.C., and will enroll in an advanced individual occupational training program - as an all-wheel vehicle mechanic - with the Reserves upon his graduation from Portage in the spring of 2013.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Paul Husar has been a two-year starter at defensive end for the Portage Mustangs football team.
A three-sport star (football, wrestling and track and field participant) at Portage, Husar completed his basic training in time to start his senior year, and senior football season, Aug. 31 with the Mustangs, for whom he plays defensive end and tight end.
From navigating obstacle courses that included running, climbing and crawling up nets, to shooting military assault rifles and machine guns, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Husar received thorough training in a variety of military disciplines at Fort Jackson.
"The obstacle courses were the most fun,'' Husar said. "That, and the shooting. We got to shoot four or five different types of weapons - an M16A3 assault rifle is the main weapon that we shot. We also got to throw live grenades and shoot grenade launchers and rocket launchers. It was real rigorous at times, but as long as you kept your head in it, you could keep on going.''
Husar will be a two-year starter at defensive end for the Portage football team. He also won 15 matches as a 152-pounder last winter for the wrestling squad, and in track, he competes in the 800-meter-run and 1600-meter run, as well as in both the 400 and 1600-meter relay events. He ran the 1600-meter run last spring in 4:57.
His athletic background helped Husar in basic training, where the enlistees heeded a 4 a.m. daily wakeup call and went through a variety of different exercises.
'There were push-up, sit-up and pull-up drills every day, and once every two or three weeks, our platoon would go on a 3-mile run paced by the drill sergeants,'' Husar said. "We'd run a quarter-mile in a minute, 35 seconds within that 3-mile run. We'd also do what were known as the safety 120's - jogging slow for 60 seconds and sprinting for 120 seconds. That was timed, and we did that drill for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.''
Over the 10-week period, there were also four drills known as rough marches that involved carrying between 20 and 30 pounds of gear on a back sack for several miles at a time.
"The first time was two miles, the second was about four miles, the third was seven miles and the last one was about 12 miles,'' Husar said. "We did the last two wearing full gear and body armor.''
A leader by nature, Husar was appointed to captain his platoon of 51 enlistees by the observing drill sergeants.
"Playing sports has definitely helped me with leadership,'' Husar said. "I pretty much try to lead by example, but if [his fellow platoon members] weren't doing the right things, I'd correct them to get them on the right path.''
Husar was involved in 15 tackles - eight solo - in Portage's second game this season, against Berlin Brothersvalley.
"He's a great kid, a leader, and the military is what he wants to do,'' Portage football and track coach Gary Gouse said of Husar. "He's got a lot of athletic ability, and he really gets after it out on the football field. The defensive end position fits him well, because it involves a lot of disciplined drills, just like the ones in the military.''
Husar will make an eight-year commitment - including six years in active duty - with the Army Reserves after graduating from high school. In return for one weekend of his time each month, the Army Reserves will cover some or all of his college costs, depending on what school he chooses to attend. Husar is eyeing a career in the medical field.
"I'm ready to serve my country in whatever way I can,'' he said.