By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
6:30 in the morning is one of the few times the campus is asleep. Wednesday morning by the Hofstra soccer stadium was no different. Pitch black, chilly and drizzling -- most college kids are passed out for the next few hours.
But then a car whizzes by, parks and waits with its lights on, followed by another car and then a few more. Out step men and women dressed in grey and black track suits slowly making their way into the physical fitness center almost gingerly, as if making sure it is not they who wake the campus. There are a few stragglers that can be seen running through the morning haze.
Senior Frank Fanelli is among this mass of people that is actually Hofstra's Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program making its way into the gym. To any college student, being up this early seems incomprehensible.
"I'm still not a morning person," said Fanelli with a smile, despite being awake since 6 a.m. "If I had the option, I would sleep until 2 p.m. every day. At least Monday, Wednesday, Friday [I get up at 6 a.m.] and then sometimes we have P.T. [physical training] on Tuesday also in the morning."
On this particular morning, Frank and his corps experience almost an hour of P.T.
"That's physical training," said Fanelli. "It basically entails cardiovascular exercises mostly without using any types of weights. There are runs, push-ups and all types of agility and cardio."
"This morning for 45 minutes we were doing three- to four-minute sprints around the gym, around cones in a circle," said Fanelli. "We then go to mule kicks where you're kind of jumping up and kicking your butt and then we do a jog and two minutes of push-ups. It's just constantly going and it gets hot in there, it's a good workout."
That's a pretty rough way to start day for anyone, but when you're an ROTC student, this is ordinary.
"Today's not too bad of a day because Wednesday is just a P.T. morning and I don't have any ROTC-related classes that I have to go to," said Fanelli. "I have other things that I have to do for ROTC to prepare for on my own but it's nothing I have to be there for. So today is not too bad of a day."
Wait. Classes? He means regular academic courses, right?
"Juniors and seniors have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays," said Fanelli. "Sophomores have class on just Thursday. On Tuesday, it's two hours that meet over at the Hofstra dome or the PFC and it's more like a classroom, you have a textbook. They teach you anything from battle drills to tactics to traditions to learning about writing orders and planning and stuff that is used for the future. We're only required to be there from 2:20 to 3:45 but that pretty much means you're there from 2:20 to 5 or 6 o'clock."
Along with more ROTC classes, seniors, like Fanelli, are given more responsibility.
"Every year you're in it, from freshman year to senior year, the more responsibility you get. So as a freshman it's really not too bad. As a senior you're given a duty position within the senior class and it's basically our role to be the educators and mentors of all the underclassmen.
"We have a couple of officers and enlisted soldiers, like sergeants, who are in the program to make sure that we're doing it correctly, but it's up to us to come with the training plans; we have to write the operations orders; we have to oversee the P.T. plans, which are basically run by about 16 seniors, including me."
Getting ready for foreign combat, the ROTC uses locations right in Hofstra's backyard to prepare for the future.
"What we do is we go out to what we call the dust bowl which is the big open grassy area in the back of the campus or we go to what we call the Shahikott Valley which is between the Marriot and the Meadowbrook Parkway," said Fanelli. "It's actually a big, deserted, woodsy area that you probably never notice and there's just a couple of hundreds of acres."
Shahikott Valley is an actual area in Afghanistan that translates to "Place of the King," where the largest battle between United States and Afghan forces took place in 2002.
It is at the renamed valley that Fanelli will show off some of his leadership skills.
"In two weeks I'll be in charge of a patrol walk where we go off to Shahikott Valley where we teach them to do patrolling so it's like we teach them to train and get everyone at the same pace," said Fanelli.
On top of all this, Fanelli is still a college student who has drawn positives from his time at ROTC.
"ROTC has definitely helped me out with my time management," said Fanelli. "It also has improved my ability to multitask. I create constant reminders for myself between schoolwork and ROTC work on what needs to get done. You have to take care of things both for school and ROTC and it has helped me stay on track."