Brittany Champlin, Will Myers, Russell Powell, Zachary Loraditch, John Morrison and James Seminter were classmates at Springfield High School when they all decided to enlist.
Their name might sound sinister, but the story behind it is anything but. The so-called "Springfield Six" spent their Fourth of July holiday hundreds of miles from home, likely on the receiving end of some very direct and loud orders from some men and women in uniforms.
Those men and women would be their drill sergeants as they go through basic training for the Army National Guard.
Brittany Champlin, Will Myers, Russell Powell, Zachary Loraditch, John Morrison and James Seminter were classmates at Springfield High School when they all decided to enlist. All but Seminter graduated this spring and all six shipped out to basic training shortly after graduation. Seminter will be a senior next year and will begin serving at his assigned post after he graduates. Their unofficial group came together over the course of the past year as they individually decided to enlist.
"Once you're in and you start talking and going around, you realize, 'Oh, there's three or four other people in it too,' and you start talking," Powell said.
The six did not enlist at the same time and were not all close friends before enlisting, but the experience has linked them together and given them a unique bond that recruiter Sgt. William Kearns can't remember seeing before.
"It is extremely rare. They weren't all necessarily friends, but it was great to see," Kearns said. "I must say that it is extremely rare to have so many young Americans from the same school join the same service during nearly the same time frame. The Springfield Six are rare and special students in my eyes."
Four of the six are going through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., while Champlin – who completed basic training between her junior and senior years – is going through Army Medic School AIT (advanced individual training) at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Loraditch is training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina before heading to Fort Sam Houston. Morrison, Powell and Loraditch will train to become military transport operators, while Seminter will be a field artillery forward observer.
Myers, whose family has had several members serve in different branches of the military, knew he wanted to enlist. Once he had made his commitment, he reached out to Powell because the two had talked about the military before.
"I knew Russell wanted to enlist in the Army and go to the reserves, but they don't have the same benefits as the National Guard," Myers explained. "I had him talk to my recruiter and get some more details about it."
Each of the six chose enlist for different reasons. Champlin’s basic training experience served as a good resource for the others, Loraditch explained.
Page 2 of 3 - "We all had our own individual reasons, but we had spoken to our people we had known who had been in the National Guard before to ask them questions and get some perspective," Loraditch said. "I really made sure to take my baby steps toward my decision before I went through with it because I know what a big decision it can be in your life."
Champlin has served as a sounding board for her fellow enlistees and Powell pointed to her as a big help in getting himself mentally ready for basic training. Her words of advice centered on handling the inevitable challenges and forceful instruction from their drill sergeants during basic training.
"I've told them not to take anything personally and that the first two weeks are really hard, but if you can make it through that, then you can make it through anything," Champlin said.
Not all of the Springfield Six have dreamed of being in the military. While Powell and Myers considered the career at young ages, Loraditch admitted the possibility was a recent one for him.
"I originally had no intentions of going into the military coming into my senior year," Loraditch added. "I was going through my courses, preparing myself for college and I had eventually come down to deciding between either Akron or Kent State. Then our physics teacher had Sgt. Kearns come in and talk to the class and it was really interesting to hear what he had to talk about."
The chance to have his college tuition paid for proved to be too good an offer for Loraditch to pass up. He decided to enlist and around the same time, Seminter and Morrison made the same decision. The Springfield Six had unofficially formed and their story began to circulate around the school.
Because the National Guard does not have a delayed-entry program (DEP) like the federal branches of the military, the Springfield Six began local training once a month after they enlisted. They were paid for their training and were able to earn service time while still attending school.
"You can imagine the leg up they will have over recruits from other services at basic training," Kearns said.
Once they complete their training, the Springfield Six will return home to postings in Northeast Ohio. Myers plans to become a full-time recruiter, while Powell plans to serve part-time and pursue a career as a firefighter. Both men say the chance to serve and protect in the event of a natural disaster such as Hurricana Katrina or a terrorist attack such as the Boston Marathon bombing is one of the biggest draws for enlisting.
"We can protect Ohio, like if something tragic like the bomb in Boston, or a tsunami or hurricane, like the National Guard went down there after Katrina, you can protect the entire country and you're really close to home too," Powell added.
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Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB